Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, or Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon, is one of the most important and famous spots in Hangzhou. Listed as one of the “Top Ten Scenic Spots of Hangzhou” by Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty, the site has been widely praised by the public and appears on the RMB 1 bill as a representative of scenic sites in China.

The site is the largest isle in the West Lake and said to be an excellent combination of both natural landscape and artificial sites, for the whole isle was created by a reclamation presided by Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty in 1607. With Mid-lake Pavilion and Ruan Gong Islet, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is known as the “Three Artificial Islets of the West Lake” and called the Small Yingzhou (meaning “small fairyland”), for layout of these three islets is similar with the three islets of paradise in traditional Chinese fairy tales.

There are three hollow pavilions settled in the lake around the islet, after which the site was named. Those pavilions were built in the Song Dynasty by the order of Su Shi, a famous Chinese poet who was also the governor of this area by then, to show the depth of the silt after dredging the West Lake in 1090. Three pavilions are settled into a triangle and 62 metres away from each other. The hollow body of them is about 2 metres above the water, in where candles would be placed on mid-Autumn night of every year. There are five round holes on every pavilion; on mid-Autumn nights, when candles placed in and thin paper would be used to cover the holes, candle lights will make paper-covered round holes appear like smaller moons above the quiet lake. Furthermore, reflections of those candle-lightened holes will also looks like moons from afar. Back in old days, men of letters would gather around the West Lake, to admire the beauty of full moon in the mid-Autumn night and praise it by poems and songs. It is said that, the most stunning and favorable view is the 33 moons of the site. When candles lighted, moon shining in the sky, visitors there will see 15 “moons” on three pavilions in the lake and their reflections will make another 15 “moons” on the lake; the real moon is hanging up in the sky while its equally elegant reflection swinging with the ripple of the lake and the most beautiful moon is hiding in every visitor’s mind.