Early history The celebratedneolithic culture ofHemudu is known to have inhabitedYuyao, 100 km (62 mi) south-east of Hangzhou, as far back as seven thousand years ago.It was during this time that ricewas first cultivated in southeast China.Excavations have established that the jade-carving Liangzhu culture (named for its type site just northwest of Hangzhou) inhabited the area immediately around the present city around five thousand years ago.The first of Hangzhou's present neighborhoods to appear in written records was Yuhang, which probably preserves an oldBaiyue name.
Hangzhou was made the seat of the zhou (very roughly, "county") of Hang inAD 589, entitling it to a city wall which was constructed two years later. By a longstanding convention also seen in other cities like Guangzhou andFuzhou, the city took on the name of the area it administered and became known as Hangzhou. Hangzhou was at the southern end of China's Grand Canal which extends to Beijing. The canal evolved over centuries but reached its full length by 609.
In the Tang dynasty, Bai Juyi was appointed governor of Hangzhou.Already an accomplished and famous poet, his deeds at Hangzhou have led to his being praised as a great governor. He noticed that the farmland nearby depended on the water of West Lake, but due to the negligence of previous governors, the old dyke had collapsed, and the lake so dried out that the local farmers were suffering from severe drought. He ordered the construction of a stronger and taller dyke, with adam to control the flow of water, thus providing water for irrigation and mitigating the drought problem. The livelihood of local people of Hangzhou improved over the following years. Bai Juyi used his leisure time to enjoy the beauty of West Lake, visiting it almost daily. He also ordered the construction of a causeway connecting Broken Bridge with Solitary Hill to allow walking, instead of requiring a boat. He then had willows and other trees planted along the dyke, making it a beautiful landmark. This causeway was later named "Bai Causeway", in his honor.
It is listed as one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China. It was first the capital of the Wuyue Kingdom from 907 to 978 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. Named Xifu at the time,it was one of the three great bastions of culture in southern China during the tenth century, along with Nanjing and Chengdu. Leaders of Wuyue were noted patrons of the arts, particularly ofBuddhist temple architecture and artwork. Hangzhou also became a cosmopolitan center, drawing scholars from throughout China and conducting diplomacy with neighboring Chinese states, and also with Japan,Korea, and the Khitan Liao dynasty.
In 1089, while another renowned poet Su Shi (Su Dongpo) was the city's governor, he used 200,000 workers to construct a 2.8 km (1.7 mi) long causeway across West Lake, which the Qianlong Emperorconsidered particularly attractive in the early morning of the spring time. The lake was once a lagoon tens of thousands of years ago. Silt then blocked the way to the sea and the lake was formed. A drill in the lake-bed in 1975 found the sediment of the sea, which confirmed its origin. Artificial preservation prevented the lake from evolving into a marshland. The Su Causeway built by Su Shi, and the Bai Causeway built by Bai Juyi, a Tang dynasty poet who was once the governor of Hangzhou, were both built out of mud dredged from the lake bottom. The lake is surrounded by hills on the northern and western sides. The Baochu Pagoda sits on the Baoshi Hill to the north of the lake.
Arab merchants lived in Hangzhou during the Song dynasty, due to the fact that the oceangoing trade passages took precedence over land trade during this time.There were also Arabic inscriptions from the 13th century and 14th century. During the later period of the Yuan dynasty, Muslims were persecuted through the banning of their traditions, and they participated in revolts against the Mongols.The Fenghuangshi mosque was constructed by an Egyptian trader who moved to Hangzhou.Ibn Battuta is known to have visited the city of Hangzhou in 1345; he noted its charm and described how the city sat on a beautiful lake and was surrounded by gentle green hills. During his stay at Hangzhou, he was particularly impressed by the large number of well-crafted and well-painted Chinese wooden ships with colored sails and silk awnings in the canals. He attended a banquet held by Qurtai, the Yuan Mongol administrator of the city, who according to Ibn Battuta, was fond of the skills of local Chinese conjurers.
Hangzhou was chosen as the new capital of the Southern Song dynasty in 1132, when most of northern China had been conquered by the Jurchens in the Jin–Song wars.The Song court had retreated south to the city in 1129 from its original capital inKaifeng, after it was captured by the Jurchens in the Jingkang Incident of 1127. From Kaifeng they moved to Nanjing, modern Shangqiu, then to Yangzhou in 1128.The government of the Song intended it to be a temporary capital. However, over the decades Hangzhou grew into a major commercial and cultural center of the Song dynasty. It rose from a middling city of no special importance to one of the world's largest and most prosperous.Once the prospect of retaking northern China had diminished, government buildings in Hangzhou were extended and renovated to better befit its status as an imperial capital and not just a temporary one. The imperial palace in Hangzhou, modest in size, was expanded in 1133 with new roofed alleyways, and in 1148 with an extension of the palace walls.
From the early 12th century until the Mongol invasion of 1276, Hangzhou remained the capital and was known as Lin'an (臨安). It served as the seat of the imperial government, a center of trade and entertainment, and the nexus of the main branches of the civil service. During that time the city was a gravitational center of Chinese civilization: what used to be considered "central China" in the north was taken by the Jin, an ethnic minority dynasty ruled by Jurchens.
Numerous philosophers, politicians, and men of literature, including some of the most celebrated poets in Chinese history such as Su Shi, Lu You, and Xin Qiji came here to live and die. Hangzhou is also the birthplace and final resting place of the scientist Shen Kuo (1031–1095 AD), his tomb being located in theYuhang district.
During the Southern Song dynasty, commercial expansion, an influx of refugees from the conquered north, and the growth of the official and military establishments, led to a corresponding population increase and the city developed well outside its 9th-century ramparts. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Hangzhou had a population of over 2 million at that time, while historian Jacques Gernet has estimated that the population of Hangzhou numbered well over one million by 1276. (Official Chinese census figures from the year 1270 listed some 186
The city of Hangzhou was besieged and captured by the advancing Mongol armies of Kublai Khan in 1276, three years before the final collapse of the empire. The capital of the new Yuan Dynasty was established in the city of Dadu (Beijing).
The Venetian merchant Marco Polo supposedly visited Hangzhou in the late 13th century. In his book, he records that the city was "greater than any in the world". He called the city Quinsai, a name that—like Odoric of Pordenone's Cansay—derived from its Southern Song nickname Xingzai, meaning "Temporary Residence". Marco Polo wrote of the city: "The number and wealth of the merchants, and the amount of goods that passed through their hands, was so enormous that no man could form a just estimate thereof." Polo may have exaggerated, describing the city as over one hundred miles in diameter (although if he had meant Chinese mile it would be smaller at 3/8 of the measurement in Italian mile),and had 12,000 stone bridges, although some argued that this may have been a mistake and exaggeration by a copyist who turned the "12 gates" of the city into "12,000 bridges".The renowned 14th-century Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta said it was "the biggest city I have ever seen on the face of the earth."
The city remained an important port until the middle of the Ming dynasty era, when its harbor slowlysilted up. Under the Qing, it was the site of an imperial army garrison.
In 1856 and 1860, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom occupied Hangzhou and caused heavy damage to the city.
Republican and Communist China
Hangzhou was ruled by the Republic of China government under theKuomintang from 1928 to 1949. On May 3, 1949, the People's Liberation Army entered Hangzhou and the city came under Communist control. After Deng Xiaoping's reformist policies began in 1978, Hangzhou took advantage of being situated in the Yangtze River Delta to bolster its development. It is now one of China's most prosperous major cities.