Hangzhou may be smaller and less well known than some of China’s other cities, but the capital of Zhejiang province has long left a lasting impression on those who visit. As far back as the 13th century, Marco Polo wrote: “In heaven there is paradise. On earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou.”
There’s a natural beauty here – nourished by the ancient Grand Canal waterway – that has attracted artists and poets for centuries and that lends a slightly dreamy quality to the ancient temples, pavilions and gardens. Coupled with its proximity to Shanghai (under an hour away on the bullet train), it’s little wonder Hangzhou has become a stomping ground for entrepreneurs and creative types.
Fitting this scene perfectly is Gem Mountain on Hangzhou’s West Lake, an interiors boutique with an emphasis on fragrance. It was founded three years ago as a floral artistry studio by business partners Lily Zhang and Yunxiao Ling, before expanding into lifestyle and interiors.
“Most of our customers are young people like university students and young entrepreneurs in different businesses. They live in the moment, and love to try new products,” Ling explains. “We want to inspire them with products that can shine in their daily life.”
As much as they adore new experiences, Ling says that the upcoming Lunar New Year is an opportunity to enjoy more long-established customs. “Lunar New Year is a traditional holiday, so we put red envelopes as traditional gifts for customers.”
Fragrance also features prominently in the celebrations. “Chinese people light incense sticks in honor of buddhas. My business partner Lily is a devout Buddhist and uses incense for every important day,” Ling says. “Others buy candles and diffusers for their deity.”