Hangzhou Culture

Hangzhou Culture Page introduces Hangzhou Culture Tour information about People, Language, Costumes, Cuisine, Festivals, Song and Dance, Traditional Crafts, Architecture, Museums, Religion, Historical Sites, Traditional Villages, Intangible Cultural Heritages and Inheritors of Intangible Cultural Heritages.

Hangzhou is a historical and cultural city with a serious of cultures such as Liangzhu culture, Wuyue culture, the Southern Song dynasty culture, the Ming and Qing dynasties culture, the West Lake culture, silk culture and tea culture. As one of the seven ancient capitals of China, Hangzhou is the first national historic and cultural city to be published by the State Council. It has a history of more than 100, 000 years according to the archaeological record, and since Qin Dynasty built the county system, it has a history of 2, 000 years. Hangzhou culture began from the Liagnzhu culture in the late Neolithic Period, and has been around for 5, 000 years. During the Spring and Autumn Period, the material culture of Hangzhou, especially in bronze smelting, shipbuilding, navigation, textile and so on were very advanced. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Hangzhou culture was second to none.

To the modern times, as one of the first 24 historical and cultural city and confirmed by the State Council, and one of the famous scenic tourist city, Hangzhou is not only the Zhejiang’s political, economic and cultural center, and its cultural and economic development is quite significant in the Yangtze River Delta region.

History of Hangzhou

Hangzhou has a history of more than 2,000 years. During the Spring and Autumn period, it became the boundary between Wu and Yue, which was dominated by Wu and Yue. In Sui dynasty, it got current name and developed well became of the Grand Canal. In Northern Song dynasty, Hangzhou became one of the famous economy and cultural center of China. In the early time of Yuan Dynasty, the Italian traveler Marco Polo visited Hangzhou, and he praised Hangzhou as “the most beautiful and elegant city in the world”. From Ming dynasty on, Hangzhou has always been the capital city of Zhejiang province. Having experienced a long history, Hangzhou adds more elements into its development so that you can see a both young and old Hangzhou if you stand on this wonderful land.

More about History of Hangzhou

People in Hangzhou

Indigenous people in Hangzhou are Han people. But as a developed first-tier city in China, Hangzhou has attracted lots of people to strive for their futures there so that you can meet a variety of nationalities in Hangzhou. Though it doesn't have distinct ethnic culture, it has its own prosperous culture. To be closer and know more about Hangzhou's own culture is a wonderful experience than you will be amazed.

Hangzhou Dialect

Hangzhou dialect is spoken in the city of Hangzhou and its immediate suburbs, but excluding areas further away from Hangzhou such as Xiāoshān (萧山) and Yúháng (余杭). Hangzhou dialect is classified under the Wu Chinese, although some western linguists claim Hangzhou is a Mandarin Chinese language. Hangzhou dialect is a living fossil in Hangzhou history. During the Southern Song Dynasty, the northern army and civilians in Kaifeng and its surrounding areas moved southward with the Song imperial household and settled in Lin 'an. Since then, the eight banners of the Qing Dynasty have been stationed in Hangzhou for more than 200 years. Due to the rapid increase of immigrants from the north, Wu language, which dominates the population, is merged with northern mandarin, which dominates the politics. this feature is especially prominent in Hangzhou city.

Religion Culture in Hangzhou

Religion has played an important role in the culture of Hangzhou, where different religious beliefs have co-existed since ancient times.  In Hangzhou, the most popular beliefs are Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam. Confucianism and Buddhism are the two major religions and are most welcomed by local people. The religion always links with the culture, so we could apprehend the religion through the visits to some exemplified temples in culture and religion of China's history. The represented temples are: Lingyin Temple, Three Temples at Tianzhu, Jinshan Temple, Baopu Taoist Temple, Fenghuang Mosque and Sicheng Church.


Confucianism is often characterized as a system of social and ethical philosophy rather than a religion. In fact, Confucianism built on an ancient religious foundation to establish the social values, institutions, and transcendent ideals of traditional Chinese society. Confucianism was supported by the authority who prescribed those who can be qualified to be the officials should pass the royal examinations held by those Confucians and the content was also focusing on the Confucianism. So in Hangzhou, one of the seven old imperial capitals in China, it was undoubtedly recommended by the government and welcomed by those young candidates. Hangzhou Confucian Temple is worth exploring for the main hall and the fabulous painted woodwork of its beams and ceiling. 


Buddhism was introduced to Hangzhou in the fourth century. An estimated 496 temples graced the landscape of Hangzhou in the early 13th century, during the Southern Song Dynasty. During the 10th century, Buddhism had such a strong influence on the culture of Hangzhou that it was called the “Southeast Buddhist Kingdom.” Even today, Buddhist structures such as Lingyin Temple, Jingci Temple, Pagoda of Six Harmonies, and Baochu Pagoda, stand as cultural symbols of West Lake and remain part of the iconic landscape of Hangzhou. You can visit the top Buddhist temples in Hangzhou listed below:


Taoism is a philosophical, ethical or religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (also romanized as Dao).  Same as the Buddhism, Taoism were introduced to Hangzhou in the fourth century. Baopu Taoist Temple is the famous Taoist temple in Hangzhou.


By the mid-13th century during the Yuan Dynasty, Islam had established communities in Hangzhou, as had Lamaism, Nestorian Christianity, and Judaism.  In 1848, during the Qing dynasty, A Hui from Ningbo also told an Englishman that Hangzhou was the "stronghold" of Islam in Zhejiang province, containing multiple mosques, compared to his small congregation of around 30 families in Ningbo for his mosque. Within the city of Hangzhou are two notable mosques: the Great Mosque of Hangzhou and the Fenghuang Mosque.


Christianity is a minority in Zhejiang province of China. Two of the Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism were from Hangzhou. There was persecution of Christians in the early 21st century in the city. Some of China’s most famous universities and hospitals were founded by Christian missionaries, such as the Zhijiang College of Zhejiang University. This was one of thirteen Christian colleges founded in China. Both the northern and southern American Presbyterian Missions had a hand in its founding in what is present day Hangzhou.

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Hangzhou Food Culture

Hangzhou dishes have a long history and they are important parts of Zhejiang cuisine culture. Hangzhou cuisine is one of the three Zhejiang cuisines together with Ningbo cuisine and Shaoxing cuisine. Hangzhou is located in Jiangnan water town, whose climate is mild and wet so that its dishes prefer to fids and shrimp. People there pay attention to authentic taste of food itself and the mixture of northern and southern Chinese cuisine’s taste.

Must-eat Food in Hangzhou

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Hangzhou Longjing Tea Culture

West Lake Longjing tea is green tea and one of the top ten famous teas in China. It is produced in the mountains around Longjing Village in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province and hence gets its name. Longjing tea leaf is flat, smooth and straight in shape, with light green and smooth color, fresh and tender fragrance, and fresh and sweet taste. Longjing tea collected before Qingming Festival is called Longjing tea before Ming Dynasty (Mingqian Longjing) for short. Just as the West Lake, Longjing Tea is the perfect crystallization of human, nature and culture, and is an important carrier of West Lake regional culture. Many people who like drinking green tea will choose longjing tea as their favourate.

West Lake Culture

For many foreigners, when it comes to Hangzhou, the first thing comes to their mind may be the the West Lake before, and now they might think of G20 after the year of 2017. West Lake, a symbol of Hangzhou and with the characteristic of Hangzhou’s urban culture, reflects the culture of this city more intensively. The rich cultural connotation surrounding the West Lake influences and permeates the cultural life of the whole Hangzhou city. In this sense, the city culture of Hangzhou is also called the “West Lake culture”.

Ten Scenes of West Lake

Read More about The Ten Scenes of West Lake in Hangzhou

Silk Culture

Known as the City of Silk, Hangzhou boasts a rich tradition of silk making. Having been one of the major hubs for silk production for centuries, silk runs through the lifeblood of Hangzhou, and you can find a place to buy it on every street corner. Perhaps more important for shoppers is being able to tell the difference between the more than 14 different types of silk. The most famous, though, is hangluo (杭罗). Using pure silkworm thread and woven in an extremely complex pattern, the fabric is famed for being light and breathable, perfect for a summer qipao.

As the Home of Silk, Hangzhou features thousands upon thousands of this flawless fabric which includes different patterns, designs and colors and it is so exquisite that it is praised by foreign visitors as the ‘Flower of Oriental Art’. This esthetic material is soft to touch and possesses a high moisture absorption rate as well as a shimmering and attractive appearance which explains its popularity from both home and abroad.

Hangzhou Architecture Culture

As one of the eight ancient capitals in Chinese history, Hangzhou boasts profound architecture culture feautring picturesque garden buildings and mordern skyscrapers. Exploring Hangzhou is like walking through a Chinese watercolour painting, enchantingly brought to life. The capital of China during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Hangzhou’s willow-fringed West Lake and mist-laced tea mountains dotted with ancient pagodas have enthralled generations of emperors, poets, artists and philosophers. You shouldn't miss the famous garden buildings in Hangzhou: Liuzhuang at Yanggongdi Causeway, Guozhuang Villa and Garden and Hongyuan Scenic Area in Xixi Wetland Park. The Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal and the ancient temples, towers and pagodas in Hangzhou well presented the construction wisdom of our ancestors. The places listed bellow are also good choices to appreciate the building styles in Hangzhou:

Landmarks in Hangzhou

Hangzhou is one of the eight great ancient capitals in China. It has long been famous for its picturesque West Lake. closer to Hangzhou’s West Lake, Grand Canal, and its glamorous past and current fast development. It has landmarks featuring ancient Hangzhou style and contemporary Hangzhou.

Folk Art and Culture

Possessing thousands of years of rich and distinctive history, Hangzhou has passed down, from generation to generation, a unique and unrivaled tradition. Today, in modern Hangzhou, there are a multitude of diverse traditional activities popularized in the folk community, which are highly valued and also practiced by local people. Highly romanticized within folklore, this romantic and poetic area is noted for its stories of unrequited love and tragedy, made famous by the love stories of Lady White Snake and Butterfly Lovers, and the legendary stories of Monk Ji Gong. These stories help make Hangzhou what it is today –a city infused with ancient and unforgettable traditions all recorded and romanticized within folklore.   

Chun'an Sanjiao Opera 淳安三脚戏

Sanjiao Opera is one of the traditional opera in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Chun 'an folk custom is characterized by singing and dancing. Every Lantern Festival, the city and countryside have the custom of performing Nuo opera and various songs and dances. During the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty, Tea-Picking Drama of Hubei Huangmei Opera and Jiangxi Gandong Tea-Picking Opera were introduced to the west of Zhejiang. They were combined with folk song and dance Juma (Zhumaban) to combine local folk music, local language and customs with the repertoire, melody and performance form of tea-picking opera.

Legend of the White Snake 白蛇传

The Legend of the White Snake, also known as Madame White Snake, is a Chinese legend. It has since been presented in a number of major Chinese operas, films, and television series. The earliest attempt to fictionalize the story in printed form appears to be The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in the Leifeng Pagoda (白娘子永镇雷峰塔) in Feng Menglong's Stories to Caution the World, which was written during the Ming dynasty. The story is now counted as one of China's Four Great Folktales, the others being Lady Meng Jiang (孟姜女), Butterfly Lovers (梁山伯与祝英台), and The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl (牛郎与织女).

Blood Stone Carving 鸡血石雕

The history of the blood stone carving goes back to more than 2300 years ago. In the process of mining, processing and carving blood stone for more than 2300 years, Lin 'an sculptors have formed a unique carving art of Changhua blood stone. In 2008, "blood stone carving" was encluded on the national intangible cultural heritage list. Up to now, inheritors still use knives as pens on the blood stone, sketching the touching stories on the stones.

West Lake Silk Umbrella 西湖绸伞

Silk umbrella, a unique traditional handicraft in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, is one of the specialties of the West Lake. delicate in shape and bright in color, it can not only shield the sun, but also be used as decorations. It is practical and artistic, so it is known as "the flower of the West Lake". The silk umbrellas are printed, dyed and embroidered. Traditional silk umbrellas are painted with the ten scenes of the West Lake, flowers, mountains and rivers and ladies, and there are more than 20 varieties of red, blue, dark green and orange. 

Hangzhou Embroidery (杭绣)

Hangzhou Embroideries originated from Han Dynasty (BC 202 – AD 202) were divided into royal court embroideries and folk embroiders. The "Royal Court Embroidery" is specialized for making luxuriant fineries for royalty members, and "folk embroidery" is to embroider officer costumes, bedcovers, folding screens and other ornaments for the folk. For tourists, you can find embroidery kerchiefs, screens, bedcovers, handbags and more. 

Lan Yin Hua Bu (Blue Cloth with Design in White) 蓝印花布

Blue cloth with design in white is an ancient folk printed fabric made by hand. The simple but elegant design on the fabric is mostly about auspicious items, reflecting the unique folk culture in China. The original dyestuff is fetched from a kind of plant: indigo plant.

Historical Sites in Hangzhou

Hangzhou is a city with rich historical precipitation, various historic sites, abundant cultural relics, cultural origin, and talented people, known as the state of the literature, land of cultural relics, holy land, southeast of poetry, state of painting and calligraphy and many other good reputations. The following sites in Hangzhou will fullfill your Hangzhou culture tour by providing full around historical and cultural information. Meijiawu Tea Plantation is a must-visit site if you want to experience more about Longjing Tea culture in Hangzhou.

Museums in Hangzhou

By the end of 2016, Hangzhou has 16 cultural centers, 16 public libraries and 14.89 million books. Museums in Hangzhou are recommended for Hangzhou culture tours, you will have a better and overall understanding of the culture and history of Hangzhou, China. The highlights among them are Huqingyu MuseumChina National Silk MuseumChina National Silk Museum and Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine, etc.

More about Museums in Hangzhou

Intangible Cultural Heritages and Inheritors in Hangzhou

The cultural heritage of Hangzhou is considered by the locals to be the jewel in the crown of this history laden city. Together the tangible and intangible heritage sites weave a cultural tapestry of China embodied in West Lake’s Scenic Area.Temples, pagodas, poems, proses, paintings, music and calligraphy are all inextricably woven into a kaleidoscope of cultural tradition and philosophical aesthetics. Hangzhou is not to be missed during your China Culture Tours of Intangible Cultural Heritages.

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Edited by Brittany Tian/田春燕

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