Hangzhou

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Showing reverence over a cup of tea

The art of Chinese tea preparation

Preheated porcelain, hand-picked and roasted tea leaves, water heated to 85 degrees and poured over the leaves from shoulder height, infusion sieved clockwise – for the famous Longjing green or dragon well tea to achieve its full, soft taste, the tea masters in the teahouses of Hangzhou follow a strict sequence.

Only a few minutes by car away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis of Hangzhou with a population of 10 million, a green oasis nestles on the hillside: the tea fields of Longjing, which experts regard as the Mecca of green tea. As far as the eye can see the tea bushes stretch out towards the horizon, interrupted here and there by gently winding paths. There is no trace of the noise and crowds of the nearby city. In the middle of the tea fields there is an almost meditative silence.

Drinking tea in China is not only for quenching one's thirst. It is a ceremony that reveals the fundamentals of Chinese culture. The planting and processing and drinking of tea has a long history. No wonder that China is considered the birthplace of tea. The original idea came from the legendary Emperor Shennong, who, it is said, lived 5000 years ago. At that time tea was used for medicinal purposes. Only much later in the Tang Dynasty from 618 – 907 did the custom of drinking tea spread among the people. During the Song Dynasty from 960 – 1279, tea culture changed considerably and became more and more ritualised.

Preserving the layers of time

Tradition and modernity along Zhongshan Road

With the redesign of Zhongshan Road, Wang Shu has created a masterpiece that is celebrated both for its architectural implementation and for its humanist approach: at the interface between historical memory and starting something new, a place of everyday life and meeting point has been created for the people of Hangzhou.

A group of young women stroll along Zhongshan Road laughing, stopping sometimes here, sometimes there to admire the displays in the shop windows, buy a quick coffee-to-go in one of the modern cafés and make themselves comfortable on one of the benches along the pedestrian zone. The later the evening, the more lively the events along the approximately 1 kilometre long road in the heart of the old town of Hangzhou become. This is exactly the effect that architect Wang Shu and his wife and business partner, Lu Wenyu, wanted to achieve when they started the project of redesigning Zhongshan Road in 2007. The aim was to breath new, modern life into the street, with its historic house facades, while at the same time preserving its tradition. An unusual project with an unusual story began...

China's rapid growth into an economic power was accompanied by a desire for modern urban planning from the early 1990s onwards. In many places, however, the cultural heritage of earlier times fell victim to this aspiration: masses of historic buildings had to make way in the expanding cities. Contemporary commercial and residential buildings were built in their place, paying tribute to the growing economic power of the People's Republic. This fate also threatened the numerous buildings along Zhongshan Road.

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Everything is an inspiration

Xiangshan Campus

Designed by the Chinese star architect, Wang Shu, the campus of the country's largest art college combines modern and traditional Chinese architecture and reflects the relationship of the Chinese to architecture, nature and philosophy.

The Xiangshan Campus is the most important art college in China. Yet art dominates not only the curriculum here, but also university life in all its facets. The uni buildings were designed by Wang Shu, who is also the dean of the university. In the architecture of the buildings, elements of classical Chinese architecture are fused with modern, contemporary elements. What is it like for young people to learn in such a place? What role do tradition and Chinese philosophy play for them today? Is their own art influenced by this?

"Studying here is something special in every respect."

Anna, 26-year-old student

Vika and Anna have made themselves comfortable with a cup of tea in front of the bright red brick facade of the campus museum at the Chinese Academy of Arts in Hangzhou. Their laptops are lying between them on the grass, with notes and drawings scattered all around. They laugh and talk, saying hello to one of the students strolling past every now and then. It is lunchtime on the university campus in Hangzhou. Students sit together in small groups here and there, but there are surprisingly few students to be found on the extensive university grounds, which cover around 60,000 square metres. "University life here is very different from that in Europe," says Anna, who originally comes from Serbia, "the campus is a place of calm and learning, not so much for socialising." A four-year scholarship brought the architecture student to Hangzhou. The 26-year-old is now studying under Wang Shu, the internationally renowned architect and winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, among others. The Xiangshan Campus is where he works as a lecturer and at the same time is one of his most prestigious projects. Founded in 1928, the Chinese Academy of Arts is the first holistic art academy in China committed to integrating Eastern and Western art into its curriculum while creating contemporary art according to the principles of Chinese culture. Between 2002 and 2007, the Xiangshan Campus on the outskirts of Hangzhou was built according to Wang Shu's designs. Today young people study art, fashion design, film, visual arts and architecture here.

"Studying here is something special in every respect," Anna enthuses. "The campus lives design. Not only in the form of the lecturers and students, but from within itself. Every building here has been created with care, nothing is down to chance. As a result, a special energy can be felt everywhere. Everything is an inspiration." Jerry is also fascinated by the special atmosphere on campus. He studies photography and design in Wuhan. Today he came to Hangzhou especially to capture the unusual architecture of the campus with his camera. "The integration of the buildings into nature is incredible. They don't look like foreign objects in the landscape, but merge with it instead." And indeed: everywhere on the campus, which was completed in 2007, there are small gardens, lakes and rivers. Here and there, nature has already reclaimed part of the campus, where trees and climbing plants peek out between the interlaced buildings. Just as it corresponds to the Chinese philosophy of unity with nature.

Inspiration Hangzhou

One Ground for your home

Tradition meets modernity on the Xiangshan Campus. The world-renowned architect, Wang Shu, has combined elements and materials of classical Chinese architecture with contemporary components. Following this role model, the vinyl flooring combines patterns of historic, Asian roof shingles with surfaces in a modern concrete look.

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