Lake Tai

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Lake Tai
Taihu, T'ai-hu
Lake Tai 1.jpg
Lake scenery at Wuxi
Locationsouthern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang
Coordinates31°14′N 120°8′E / 31.233°N 120.133°E / 31.233; 120.133Coordinates: 31°14′N 120°8′E / 31.233°N 120.133°E / 31.233; 120.133
Native name太湖
Basin countriesChina
Surface area2,250 km2 (869 sq mi)
Average depth2 m (6.6 ft)
SettlementsHuzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi
Lake Tai
Literal meaningGreat Lake
Lake Tai is located in China
Lake Tai
Lake Tai
Map of China showing the location of Lake Tai
View from the water's edge

Taihu, also known as Lake Tai or Lake Taihu, is a lake in the Yangtze Delta and one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. The lake lies in 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),[1] it is the third-largest freshwater lake in China, after Poyang and Dongting. The lake holds 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 the surrounding region experienced rapid industrial development.


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.[2] The prospective impact crater has been dated to be greater than 70 million years old and possibly from the late Devonian Period.[3] However, new research suggests that present evidence shows no impact crater structure or shock-mineral at Lake Tai.[4] 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.

Scenic locations[edit]

Shore of Lake Tai in Wuxi's Three Kingdoms Park

The lake is renowned for its unique limestone formations at the foot of the adjacent Dongting Mountain (洞庭山). 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[citation needed] 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.

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.[citation needed] Mei Yuan is also located in Lake Tai, along with Yuantouzhu. Yuantouzhu received its name ("Turtle Head Isle") from the shape of its outline.

Ferris wheel[edit]

The "Star of Lake Tai" is a giant, 115-meter (377 ft) Ferris wheel on the shore of the lake.[5] 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.[citation needed]


Business and industry[edit]

The lake is known for its productive fishing industry and is often covered by fleets of small private fishing boats.[6] Since the late 1970s, harvesting food 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 to an extensive ceramic industry, including the Yixing pottery factory, which produces world-renowned Yixing clay teapots.


Lake scene at Wuxi

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 tripled, and the population also increased significantly. One billion tons of wastewater, 450,000 tons of garbage, and 880,000 tons of animal waste were dumped into 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.[7]

In May 2007, the lake was overtaken by a major algae bloom and by major pollution with cyanobacteria.[8] 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.[9] (The lake provides water to 30 million residents, including about one million in Wuxi.[10]) By October 2007, it was reported that the Chinese government had shut down or given notice to over 1,300 factories around the lake. Nonetheless, Wu Lihong, one of the leading environmentalists who had been publicizing pollution of the lake, was sentenced to three years in prison for alleged extortion of one of the polluters,[8] but, undeterred, alleged in 2010 that not a single factory was closed.[11]

Jiangsu province planned to clean the lake;[12] chaired by Wen Jiabao, the State Council set a target to complete the task by 2012.[13] However, in 2010 The Economist reported that pollution had broken out again and that Wu Lihong, released from prison that April, was claiming that the government was trying to suppress news of the outbreak while switching to other supplies in place of lake water.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 太湖 [Lake Tai]. The Suzhou Science Window 苏州科普之窗 (in Chinese). Science and Technology Association of Suzhou City [苏州市科学技术协会]. Archived from the original on 2007-06-11.
  2. ^ Wang Erkang; Wan Yuqiu; Xu Shijin (May 2002). "Discovery and implication of shock metamorphic unloading microfractures in Devonian bedrock of Taihu Lake". Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences. 45 (5).
  3. ^ Wang, K.; Geldsetzer, H. H. J. (1992). "A late Devonian impact event and its association with a possible extinction event on Eastern Gondwana". Lunar and Planetary Inst., International Conference on Large Meteorite Impacts and Planetary Evolution: 77. Bibcode:1992lmip.conf...77W.
  4. ^ Dong et al., (2012). "The Deformation Features of Quartz grains In the Sandstone of Taihu Area: Taihu Impact Origin Controversy". Geological Journal of China Universities.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  5. ^ 文涛 (September 1, 2008). "太湖之星"摩天轮即将开放. Xinhuanet (in Chinese). Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  6. ^ Barrett, Rick (February 3, 2007). "China offers open waters". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on February 28, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2007.
  7. ^ Ma, Jun (2004). China's Water Crisis. Norwalk, CT: International Rivers Network. pp. 163–164. ISBN 1-891936-28-X.
  8. ^ a b Kahn, Joseph (October 13, 2007). "In China, a Lake's Champion Imperils Himself". International Herald Tribune.
  9. ^ "Algae smother Chinese lake, millions panic". MSNBC. AP. May 31, 2007.
  10. ^ "China's third-largest freshwater lake faces algae threat". China Daily. Xinhua. April 14, 2008. Retrieved April 20, 2008.
  11. ^ "Umweltschützer in China - Der unbeugsame Herr Wu". Tagesschau (in German). May 18, 2010. Archived from the original on May 21, 2010.
  12. ^ "China to clean up polluted lake". BBC News. October 27, 2007.
  13. ^ "Taihu cleanup plan". China Daily - Across China: Beijing. April 4, 2008. p. 4. Retrieved April 20, 2008.
  14. ^ The Economist, 7 August 2010 p 49.