Lap, lap, lap. Lean back, let the paddle lick the water behind you. Let the boatsman take the strain as the zither reverberates through the mist, around the lake. Sip, swill or swig the intoxicating romance of a city famous for its fine green tea, lakeside temples and lovely ladies. No city in China is more celebrated by poets, painters and emperors. Backward baby Shanghai was little more than a smelly fishing village when Hangzhou was “without doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world,” as Marco Polo put it. Capital of China from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276, Hangzhou was once the largest city in the world, a “paradise on earth” for reputedly about 1 million residents, beloved by scholars, writers and calligraphers obsessed with the essence of a perfect brush strike, rain droplet or cup of tea. Not surprisingly for a bustling trade terminus on the ancient Grand Canal, boating is still a popular pastime here for pleasure seekers and wooing couples.