The celebrated West lake was formed after a shallow sea inlet became silted up. The region has attracted visitors for centuries and became a favourite imperial retreat. The lake and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden, but on a grand scale. The natural setting of strangely shaped peaks on three sides; serene forests and springs; dense foliage and a myriad of blossoms, especially in springtime; are enhanced by a treasury of sculpture and architectural features. The lake is best enjoyed by cruise on board a local boat, which will often be adorned with traditional Chinese paintings and carving, but equipped with modern conveniences.