Hangzhou City Profile
Tippy Pei

Quote on Well-being in Hangzhou:

"There is a heaven and there is Hangzhou, it is by far the most noble and finest cities in the world"

-Marco Polo

Well-being, or welfare, generally refers to the condition of an individual or group, including their social, economic, psychological, spiritual and medical state. Having a high well-being is an indirect indication of how positive the experiences are the individual or group having.
The idea of investigating the well-being of people in different city was inspired by a group project done by a team of my schoolmates on the level of happiness in our campus. I was highly engaged by this project and lots of further inquires started popping up all at once. After being introduced to this project on creating a city profile, I instantly thought of focusing on their state of well-being since I think through my investigation, I would be able to gain a better understanding on this topic as a whole.

The idea of well-being, to a lot of people, is fairly vague term. It might mean different to different people. However, I still believe that there is some thing common amongst those definition. And through my investigation, I think I would be able to consolidate the idea of well-being in a city or society. And by drawing upon relationships and conclusion, I believe that my findings could facilitate me to try and make the city I am living in a happier place to live in.

Background and Overview

When people think of China they think of millions of people, The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. However, there is a little paradise about an hour away from Shanghai, although not a mega-city, it is a great place to be --- Hangzhou.

Located in the northeast area of Zhejiang Province with a population of 8 million people, Hangzhou is one of the most renowned travel cities in China. Dubbed the “Paradise under Heaven,” the city is well known across the world for its splendid natural scenery, numerous historical relics, fine silk and Longjing tea. But what makes Hangzhou an attractive place to live is its peace, quiet and slower pace of life.

With many diverse sectors such as light industry, agriculture, and textiles, Hangzhou is an industrial city. Hangzhou's economy has rapidly developed since its opening up in 1992. It is now considered an important manufacturing base and logistics hub for coastal China.

The city has also developed many new industries, including medicine, information technology, heavy equipment, automotive components, household electrical appliances, electronics, telecommunication, fine chemicals, chemical fibre and food processing.

In 2013, Hangzhou’s GDP rose 8.0% to RMB 834.35 billion, ranking first in Zhejiang Province. The primary sector, secondary sector and tertiary sector have added value of RMB 26.54 billion, RMB 366.2 billion, and RMB 441.61 billion, contributed 3.2%, 43.9% and 52.9% to the city’s economy, respectively.

It also has a relatively lower unemployment rate at 1.85% comparing to other world leading cities such as Sydney (5.3%) and Hong Kong (3.2%).

Hangzhou is a mixture of old and new. The central city is filled with modern buildings while looking around you can see pagodas on the hills, pavilions from ancient times and wonderful gardens.

More importantly, Hangzhou is regarded as one of China's happiest cities. According to a survey involving more than 30 million participants conducted by the Oriental Outlook magazine, Hangzhou was top-listed as the happiest city in China. In addition, according to the latest China Urban Competitiveness Ranking in 2013 from the China Institute of City Competitiveness (CICC). Hangzhou ranked second among all the cities.

It is also granted with several other awards:

  • Awarded Best Residential Prize by the UN
  • International Garden City awarded by the International Federation of Park and Recreation Administration
  • National Best Tourist City awarded by the China National Tourism Administration and World Tourism Organization
  • National Model City in Environmental Protection awarded by the Ministry of Environmental Protection
  • City with the Best Security in China awarded by the Ministry of Public Security
  • City with Best Economic Activity in China awarded by CCTV

The followings are two map showing the location of hangzhou and where Hangzhou is in China respectively.

My question of inquiry is to investigate the factors affecting the well-being of people in Hangzhou. In order to break this topic down for easier research and data analysis, I divided it into 3 sub-questions:

  1. what is wellbeing and how to measure it?
  2. what kind of impact does it have on an individual and society?
  3. how is wellbeing affected by other factors in Hangzhou?

Measuring well-being

In order to answer this question, I looked for specific organisations that could provide me specified indications or guidelines to assess a city's level of well-being.

The Bhutan Gross National Happiness

The Royal Government of Bhutan in 2005 made the decision to develop GNH indicators that is a measurable assessing guideline on the city's happiness.

This concept involves 9 domains that they believe largely contributes to the well-being of a nation. The 9 domains are listed below:

1. Psychological Wellbeing

2. Standard of Living

3. Good Governance



6.Community Vitality

7.Cultural Diversity and Resilience

8. Time Use

9. Ecological Diversity and Resilience

The following is a video explaining it concept

The PERMA Model

The PERMA Model was developed by respected positive psychologist, Martin Seligman.

The five characters in the word "PERMA" stands for the five essential elements that are important to experience lasting

"PERMA" stands for the five essential elements that should be in place for us to experience lasting well-being. These are:

1. Positive Emotion

2. Engagement

3. Positive Relationships

4. Meaning

5. Accomplishment

Even though these two measurements are not completely the same, they do share similarities and common aspects. For example, they both think that maintaining a positive environment is very important. In addition, their common thoughts on achieving a better live standard could also be seen.

Through my previous investigations on Hong Kong and Sydney, I understood that maintaining a high positive engaging environment is a determining factor that could influence a city's wellbeing level significantly. Therefore, I am very curious of whether if not this is also a factor that determines Hangzhou's happiness level. I would also like to explore other factors that truely differentiate a city's wellbeing level from others

Factors on Environment

In order to provide a more friendly and coherent environment for the citizens, the hangzhou government has been working on increasing both the quantity and quality of environment

The green space at parks, forest landscape, cultural and humanity resources of various types will be connected with downtown, main roads and neighbourhoods.

The city’s green space area increased 4.41 million sqm in 2012. Specifically, the green space north to Shantang River will be open to public soon; the 2km footpath in Banshan Forest Park, which is still under construction, will extend from the Immortal Valley in Hushan Park to the mountain ridge of Forest Park.

The city’s total green space area has reached 166.5 square kilometers as at the end of 2012. The greening rate in urban Hangzhou stood at 36.78% and the general green coverage ratio amounted to 40.1%. The park green space per capital is 15.5 sqm.

On the other hand, pollution has long been a problem in Hangzhou. The chart below suggests that air and water pollution are the two major problems that needs to be addressed directly as soon as possible. The PM10 index of hangzhou is 49 while in Hong Kong, the index is 31.

Pollution in Hangzhou

Even though pollution has long been a problem in Hangzhou, we cannot directly address this to be the major factor on their level of wellbeing. This is unlike other cities that suffer from pollution problem but were not trying to improve, the Hangzhou government are actually making an effort to improve the citizen's live quality by attempting to improve the environment quality.

The website above suggests the government's effort paid in trying to achieve a better environment standard.

Combining with the natural ecological system in Hangzhou, the government is trying to set up a fundamental framework for urban ecology. Featuring “mountain, lake, city, river, farmland, sea and stream”, in which major tasks will be about building “four parks (four suburban forest parks), multiple areas (water reservation area, wetland reserve and scenic area) and multiple corridors (waterside green corridor and transportation green corridor)”, to form a ecological landscape green system that has “two rings (inner and outer rings), two axes (Qiantang River and the Grand Canal), and six eco-belts”.

The government also highly value urban forestation. In the article they have stated clearly that their ambition is “to construct an international scenic and tourist city and an ecological city”Work determinedly to raise the urban green coverage rate to create an urban green system combining the spot, line and plane, which incorporates mountain, water, forest, park and city as one.

It is the government's intention and attitude towards improving the environment that truly matters. Since this doesn't only have an impact on the improving the environment, it also has an impact on the people's satisfaction with life because they have a government that cares about their environment. These are all positive factors that contributes to a city's level of wellbeing.

Factors on Sense of Belonging

Hangzhou is teemed with Chinese culture, one of the six ancient cities in China. It is because of the heritage left as a mark of its long history, alongside with a deep cultural understanding of the citizens, that give them a strong sense of belonging.

Examples of heritage and culture:

Qiaoxi Historic Block – Hangzhou’s Time Capsule

Located west of the old Gongchen Bridge along the bank of the Grand Canal, stands Qiaoxi Historic Block, a grand residential area, heralding designs from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Restored by the government in 2008 it has since been developed to include a number of new attractions. Boasting a range of services such as Chinese medicine culture, ceramic making and catering this ancient block with a modern twist is also home to a number of restaurants, cafes, tea-houses, gift shops and museums.

Once old and frayed this residential block is now buzzing with charm and beauty but still maintains its sense of tranquility and style.

Tea Culture in Hangzhou

It is not difficult to see evidence of tea culture when traveling through Hangzhou. A lot of must-see places in and around the city are either production areas for fine tea and high-quality mountain spring water or places where famous legendary figures have stayed for a cup of tea.

Tea and its related customs have been a significant factor in the development of the city's key features for 1,500 years. Among its celebrated types of tea, the Longjing Tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea, is the most renowned one. Nowadays, its fame is now so widespread that it is offered as a luxury gift and drinking experience to Heads of State from China and around the world.

Moreover, Hangzhou has always been regarded as a famous haunt for intellectuals and poets. The best of ancient poets, Bai Juyi and Su Shi, stayed in the the city's temples. There they would exchange thoughts with the monks about Buddhism while drinking tea.  As a result, the places they stayed became a famous landmark, both for the scenery and for the poets' great writings.

It is because of these important Chinese culture and heritage that gives people a strong sense of belonging. This is because the unique culture provided things for the people to identify themselves with. Participating as a part of Hangzhou, the people would feel proud of its city's success and more satisfied with the place they are living because of its unique and important identities.

Documentaries and Videos

This short documentaries explained the reason why hangzhou is the happiest city in China. It stated that a lot of people are attracted by Hangzhou's natural scenery and decided to move to Hangzhou or even run their business there.

Regarding the survey conducted with the elderlies in Hangzhou, though the video only shows a few samples of the result, it might be biased since we could see that all the happiness rating are really high. However, since the elderlies are the people who lived in this city for the longest period time, they are able to thoroughly experience the life in Hangzhou, which provide us an insight of the citizen's opinion on their wellbeing.

In the individual interview with Tritty Yao, a local business woman, she suggested that "I feel the safest to live in here, because I was born in here". Actually, her reason of feeling safe is not just because she is born in here since one could be born in a chaotic city and not feel safe at all.

Her reason of feeling safe, however, is because of the unique, significant and coherent identities of Hangzhou. Since these identities provide her something to connect with the city she is living in, she would feel more comfortable living here, hence feeling a strong sense of safety.

The document suggest that in order to build a better society, the crucial factors include building up a sense of wellbeing and social harmony, feeling safe and secure, as well as authenticity and diversity.

The also provides a suggestion of how to enhance social communication within the city, which is also an important factor that affects the level of wellbeing of a city.

Looking into the future

Hangzhou has already established its position in China as the happiest city and an ideal place for people to live in. However, it still has a lot of potential to bring its happiness status to another level, to the scale of being one of the world's happiest cities.

Throughout this investigation, I was able to understand the importance of different factors on a city's wellbeing level. For example, Hangzhou, despite being less advanced than Shanghai, has lots of historical heritage and culture and displays a significantly higher wellbeing level in comparison to China's most prosperous city, Shanghai. Even though both of these two cities shares similarities such as being one of the China's most famous cities, it is these kind of crucial factors that truly differentiate their degree of happiness.

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