A friend and I are leaving soon to spend the weekend in Hangzhou, a city near Shanghai. I first learned about the wonders of the city when I was studying Chinese. My textbook had a dialog that went like this:
B: Suzhou and Hangzhou.
Wanting to practice my Chinese and demonstrate my knowledge of other Chinese geographical place names, I would suggest other answers–Guilin, Xiaman, Changchun–but was always gently reminded by my teacher that the correct answer to the question is Suzhou and Hangzhou. As my circle of Chinese friends grew I would ask them the question, and sure enough I always, ALWAYS got the same answer–Suzhou and Hangzhou. Whether or not the person answering had ever actually been to either of these cities seemed to be completely irrelevant. It was just something that every Chinese person knew.
Well, it turns out that there is a famous ancient poem that has this line: Shang you tiantang, xia you Su Hang. Up above is heaven, down below there is Suzhou and Hangzhou. And that is why it is considered a statement of fact that Suzhou and Hangzhou are China's most beautiful cities. It's there….in the book!
So, wer'e off to Hangzhou, a very nice city, but certainly not the nicest city under heaven. My friend and I travel tons for work, so we're really looking forward to this trip, which has absolutly NO work component to it. Three days in a Holiday Inn with no computers, email, or internet—come to think of it, that does sound heavenly!!