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The historic pagoda of Hangzhou

On the shore of the Qiantang River stands the historic symbol of Hangzhou: the Liuhe Pagoda, also known as Six Harmonies Pagoda. The 7-storey, 60-metre-tall structure has been towering over the river for over a thousand years. From the hill top, the pagoda stands watch over the unpredictable river waters.

You can climb the Liuhe Pagoda and from the top you will enjoy the views that have been praised in song and verse by many Chinese poets and scholars. The many niches depict images from the Sutra of the Forty two Sections – the first Buddhist text ever to be translated from Sanskrit into Chinese. Although various elements from Yuan architecture have been added to the tower, the pagoda is regarded as an architectural masterpiece of the Song dynasty. The surrounding grounds boast beautifully landscaped gardens.

The pagoda on Yuelun Hill
The pagoda on Yuelun Hill

Hangzhou

A turbulent beginning

Liuhe comes from the 6 Buddhist decrees: harmonies of the heaven, earth, east, west, north and south. At the end of the 10th century, the ruler of the Wuyue Kingdom ordered the construction of the pagoda, which immediately accrued various functions. In addition to serving as a religious structure, it was used as a lighthouse as well as a flood defence against the tidal waters of the river. At the beginning of the 12th century the original structure was destroyed during a battle. A few decades later however a new pagoda arose, and except for some minor adjustments the structure was an exact copy of the original.

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View on the map

Liuhe pagoda

On the banks of the Qiantang River

An impressive phenomenon

If you climb to the top floor of the pagoda when the tide comes in, you may witness a unique natural spectacle: the tidal wave. Nowhere in the world is this phenomenon as extreme as here. This is caused by the funnel-shaped mouth of the Qiantang River, which concentrates the rising flood into a wall of water that is pushed upstream. The pagoda was built to appease the much feared waves, but at spring tide the raging waters can still rise up to 9 metres.

Tidal wave on the Qiantang River

Photo credits

  • On the banks of the Qiantang River: J Aaron Farr, Flickr
  • Tidal wave on the Qiantang River: Gwydion M Williams, Flickr