Today Hangzhou is booming again. Not only is it a major tourist destination for its famous West Lake, but it is also home to some of China’s largest innovative businesses, such as Alibaba.
However, Hangzhou is also an ancient city with a rich and complex history. Here is the history of Hangzhou in brief.
Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC)
China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, famous for building an incredible mausoleum known today as the Terracotta Warriors Museum, comes as far as Hangzhou and declares the region part of his empire.
Sui Dynasty (581-618)
The Grand Canal, originating in Beijing, extends to Hangzhou, thus linking the city to the most profitable trade route in China. Hangzhou becomes more and more powerful and prosperous.
Tang Dynasty (618-907)
Hangzhou’s population increases, as well as its regional power, serving as the capital for the Wuyue kingdom in the late 10th century.
Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)
These years saw the golden age of Hangzhou’s prosperity as it became the capital of the Southern Song dynasty. Local industry flourished and the cult of Taoism and Buddhism reached its peak. Many of the temples that you can visit today were built during this period.
Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368)
The Mongols rule China and Marco Polo visits Hangzhou in 1290. It is said that he was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the Xi Hu , or West Lake, that he transcribed and popularized a famous Chinese saying Shang you tiantang, xia you Suhang. This saying means “in heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Su [zhou] and Hang [zhou].” The Chinese now like to call Hangzhou a “Paradise on Earth.”
Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1644, 1616-1911)
Hangzhou continued to grow and prosper thanks to its local industries, especially silk weaving, and became the center of silk production throughout China.
After the Qing dynasty collapsed and the republic was established, Hangzhou lost Shanghai’s economic status to its foreign interests in the 1920s. The internal war cost Hangzhou hundreds of thousands of people, and entire sections of the city were destroyed.
Since the opening of China in the 20th century, Hangzhou has recovered. Rising foreign investment and a group of some of China’s most successful private companies, such as Alibaba, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, have made Hangzhou, once again, one of the most prosperous cities in China. .
How To Visit Historic Hangzhou
Visiting historic Hangzhou is a bit easier than in other large cities that have developed at the speed of light. West Lake itself is a great way to delve into the history of the city with its beautiful views and scenic drives. Head up into the hills and visit some of the historic pagodas and temples. Or take a stroll down the historic Qinghefang Street. If you can walk past the vendors, you can get an idea of what the city was like in ancient times.