Lake scenery at Wuxi
|Surface area||2,250 km2 (869 sq mi)|
|Average depth||2 m (6.6 ft)|
|Settlements||Huzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi|
Lake Tai or Lake Taihu (Chinese: 太湖, p Tài Hú, lit. "Great Lake") is a large freshwater lake in the Yangtze Delta plain near Shanghai, China. The lake belongs to Jiangsu province and the southern shore forms its border with Zhejiang. With an area of 2,250 square kilometers (869 sq mi) and an average depth of 2 meters (6.6 ft), it is the third-largest freshwater lake in China, after Poyang and Dongting. The lake houses about 90 islands, ranging in size from a few square meters to several square kilometers.
Lake Tai is linked to the renowned Grand Canal and is the origin of a number of rivers, including Suzhou Creek. In recent years, Lake Tai has been plagued by pollution as a result of rapid economic growth in the surrounding region.
Scientific studies suggest that Lake Tai's circular structure is the result of a meteor impact based on the discovery of shatter cones, shock-metamorphosed quartz, microtektites, and shock-metamorphic unloading fractures. Recent studies have dated the prospective impact crater to be greater than 70 million years old and possibly from the late Devonian Period. Fossils indicate that Lake Tai was dry land until the ingression of the East China Sea during the Holocene epoch. The growing deltas of the Yangtze and Qiantang rivers eventually sealed off Lake Tai from the sea, and the influx of fresh water from rivers and rains turned it into a freshwater lake.
The lake is renowned for its unique limestone formations. These "scholar's rocks" or "Taihu stones" are often prized as a decorating material for traditional Chinese gardens, as exemplified by those preserved as museums in nearby Suzhou.
Lake Tai is best seen from atop the Dragon Light Pagoda in western Wuxi's Xihui Park, from which both Wuxi and Lake Tai are visible. Another well-known panoramic view, made famous by an 11th-century poem by Su Shi, is that from Longshan[disambiguation needed].
Three of the lake's islands are preserved as a national geological park under the name Sanshan. They are famed as a former haunt of local bandits. Mei Yuan is also located in Lake Tai, along with Yuantouzhu. Yuantouzhu received its name ("Turtle Head Isle") from the shape of its outline.
Business and industry
The lake is also known for its productive fishing industry and is often occupied by fleets of small private fishing boats. Since the late 1970s, harvesting seafood products such as fish and crabs has been invaluable to people living along the lake and has contributed significantly to the economy of the surrounding area.
The Lake is home a ceramic production industry that is very extensive. Also the lake is home to the Ishing pottery factory which makes tea pots of world renown.
The Star of Lake Tai is a 115-meter (377 ft) tall giant Ferris wheel on the shoreline of the lake. Completed in 2008, it takes 18 minutes to complete one revolution. Passengers can enjoy the scenery of Lake Tai and the city center. At night, lighting effects are switched on around the wheel.
Pollution of the lake has been ongoing for decades despite efforts to reduce pollution that were not sustained and thus proved ineffective. In the 1980s and 1990s the number of industries in the lake region has tripled, while the population also increased significantly. One billion tons of wastewater, 450,000 tons of garbage and 880,000 tons of animal waste were dumped in the shallow lake in 1993 alone. The central government intervened and initiated a campaign to clean up the lake, setting a deadline to comply with pollution standards. When the deadline was not met, 128 factories were closed on New Year's Eve in 1999. Compliance improved somewhat afterwards, but the pollution problem remained severe. In May 2007, the lake was overtaken by a major algae bloom and by major pollution with cyanobacteria. The Chinese government called the lake a major natural disaster despite the anthropogenic origin of this environmental catastrophe. With the average price of bottled water rising to six times the normal rate, the government banned all regional water providers from implementing price hikes. The lake provides water to 30 million residents, including about one million in Wuxi. By October 2007 it was reported that the Chinese government had shut down or given notice to over 1,300 factories around the lake. However, Wu Lihong, one of the leading environmentalists who had been publicizing the pollution of the lake, was sentenced to three years in prison for alleged extortion of one of the polluters, but, undeterred, alleged in 2010 that not a single factory was closed. Jiangsu province planned to clean up the lake, and chaired by Wen Jiabao the State Council set a target to clean Lake Tai by 2012. However, in 2010 The Economist reported that a fresh pollution outbreak had occurred, and that Wu, released from prison in April, was claiming that the government was trying to suppress news of it, all the while switching to other supplies in place of lake water.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lake Tai.|
- Also translated as Tai or T'ai Lake and as Taihu or T'ai-hu Lake.
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- The Economist, 7 August 2010 p 49.