S.M. Hali The second part of my trip took us to the fabled city of Hangchow, which has been labelled as 'Heaven on Earth. It is the Kinsai, Kingtse, or Quinsay of the 13th century Venetian traveller Marco Polo, who described it as the worlds most beautiful city; in those days the city had a garrison of 30,000 soldiers and contained 600,000 families. Hangchow was held by the Taipings between 1861 and 1864, during the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing dynasty. The port was opened to foreign commerce in 1896. When the nationalists made Nanjing their capital in 1928, Hangchow became very important as the port of that city. It fell to the Japanese on December 24, 1937. In the civil war following World War II, Hangchow was abandoned by the nationalists to communist troops in May 1949. The city has always been a literary centre port and capital of Zhejiang province, China, on the mouth of the Qiantang River, at the southern terminus of thegrand canal, 175 km southwest of Shanghai. Also, Hangchow has fine landscaped gardens, and was the capital of China from 1127 to 1278 under the Southern Song dynasty. It is renowned for its historic relics and natural beauty. It has been ranked as one of the 10 most scenic cities in China. Although Hangchow has been through many recent urban developments, it still retains its historical and cultural heritage. Today,tourismremains an important factor for its economy.One of Hangchows most popular sights is West Lake. The lake covers an area of 6km2and includes some of the citys most notable historic and scenic places. Adjacent to the lake is a scenic area covering over 50 sq km. The area includes historical pagodas, cultural sites, as well as the natural beauty of the lake and hills. There are two causeways across the lake. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides, with an area of around 6.5 sq km. Anyway, we boarded a ship for a joy ride across the lake, which reminded us of the ancient times when Chinese Emperors had pleasure cruises. The delegation then witnessed the famous traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony at the Tea Museum, which was a splendid experience, blending the glamour of the orient with custom and ritual. The entire ceremony was commemorative of the ancient rituals, which form the backbone of the Chinese society. The final event was a sumptuous dinner by the Director General of Foreign Affairs, who exchanged ideas with us on the future development plans for Hangchow. Our next stopover was the city of Yiwu, which is an international trading and commodities commercial centre. Manufactured goods, which adorn the classy stores of Europe and the US, are manufactured in China and sold in Yiwu markets. It has for six consecutive years topped Chinas 100 best open markets and was for successive years listed as the countrys civilised open market. Finally after reaching Beijing, we were given a heartrending talk by Chinas Earthquake Administration, who had come to Pakistans aid both after the 2005 earthquake and now following the 2010 devastating floods. We also had the opportunity to witness the Foreign Office (FO) briefing on December 9 - the eve of the Nobel Peace Prize during which the western journalists ganged up on the spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, and criticised Beijing for not permitting Liu Xiaobo to accept the award in person. Their duplicity was clearly visible because although Ms Jiang Yus said that any discussion on Liu Xiaobo was interference in the internal affairs of China, yet they continuously made efforts to ridicule the country for it. The next morning we paid homage to Chairman Mao at his mausoleum at Tiananmen Square. The delegation also visited the Niujie Mosque, which is a spiritual centre for 10,000 Muslims living in the vicinity and it is the biggest and oldest one in Beijing. Undoubtedly, China has come a long way from the days of backwardness and Pakistan can learn a lot from its prosperity and development. The writer is a political and defence analyst.