West Lake - Geography


About the formation of West Lake, there are few records in ancient documents. "West Lake Sight-Seeing Record" (西湖游覽志) of Ming Dynasty, column one, says, "West Lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides. Streams wander down the hills into the pond. There're hundreds of springs underneath. Accumulated water forms the lake." (西湖三面環山,溪谷縷注,下有淵泉百道,潴而為湖。) Modern scholars studied topography, geology, sediment and hydrodynamics, and generally held that West Lake was a lagoon formed gradually from a gulf. In Minguo 9th year (1920), scientist Zhu Kezhen published "The Cause of Formation of West Lake in Hangzhou" (杭州西湖生成的原因) after examining the topography around the lake. He claimed, "West Lake originally was a little bay on left side of Qiantang River. Later the earth in the river sedimented and slowly corked the mouth of the bay, hence a lagoon formed." Zhu even postulated, based on the calculation of sedimentary rate, that West Lake was formed about 12,000 years ago. Zhu also thought when the lake was initially formed, it was even larger than what we see today. But the creeks coming down from the hills surrounding on three sides brought earth and soils to fill in the lake, so that the water area gradually shrank. West Lake would no longer exist today without all the dredging work done in the historical period. In 1924, geologist Zhang Hongzhao (章鴻釗) published "One Explanation of the Formation of West Lake". While supporting Zhu's arguments, he supplemented that the formation of West Lake started with tidal force building the lake bank. Later, the alterations of the beach helped to maintain the water level. These were two prerequisites to the formation of the lake.

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