"In heaven, there is a paradise, on earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou". For Chinese, Hangzhou is the country's one of the most famous tourist attraction. As one of the most renowned and prosperous cities of China for much of the last 1,000 years, Hangzhou is also well-known for its historic relics and its beautiful natural scenery, with the West Lake (Xi Hu) as the most noteworthy location. The area includes historical pagodas, cultural sites, as well as the natural beauty of the lake and hills. Its buildings and gardens are renowned, and some of famous temples are located nearby, such as Lingyin Temple (lingyin Si), Jingci Temple, Liuhe Pagoda, Baoshu Pagoda, Leifeng Pagoda. Famous Longjing (Dragon Well) Village produces one of China's most famous varieties of green tea. Hangzhou has been ranked as one of the ten most scenic cities in China. Although Hangzhou has been through many recent urban developments, it still retains its historical and cultural heritage.
West Lake (Xihu), Hangzhou
The celebrated Neolithic culture of Hemudu has been discovered to have inhabited this area as far back as seven thousand years ago, when rice was first cultivated in southeastern China.
The city of Hangzhou was founded about 2,200 years ago during the Qin Dynasty, it is listed as one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China, but the city wall was not constructed until the Sui Dynasty (591).
It was 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 centers of culture in southern China during the tenth century, along with Nanjing and Chengdu. Leaders of Wuyue were noted patrons of the arts, and especially of Buddhism and associated temple architecture and artwork.
In 1089, Su Shi constructed a 2.8 km long dike across the West Lake, which Qing Emperor Qianlong considered particularly attractive in the early morning of the spring time. The lake, which itself is artificial, is largely surrounded by mountains. The Baoshi Pagoda sits on one of these hills to the north.
Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from the early 12th century until the Mongol invasion of 1276, and was known as Lin'an. 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 the gravity centre of Chinese civilization as what used to be considered the "central China" in the north was taken by the Jin, an ethnic minority dynasty. 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.
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. Hangzhou had a population of over 2 million at that time (Official Chinese census figures from the year 1270 listed some 186,330 families in residence and probably failed to count non-residents and soldiers.) It is believed that Hangzhou was the largest city in the world from 1180 to 1315 and from 1348 to 1358.
The Venetian Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in the late 13th century and referred to the city as "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world." Although he exaggerated that the city was over one hundred miles in diameter and had 12,000 stone bridges, he still presented elegant prose about the country. "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."
Because of the large population and densely-crowded (often multi-story) wooden buildings, Hangzhou was particularly vulnerable to fires. Major conflagrations destroyed large sections of the city in 1132, 1137, 1208, 1229, 1237, and 1275 while smaller fires occurred nearly every year. The 1237 fire alone was recorded to have destroyed 30,000 dwellings. To combat this threat, the government established an elaborate system for fighting fires, erected watchtowers, devised a system of lantern and flag signals to identify the source of the flames and direct the response, and charged more than 3,000 soldiers with the task of putting out fires.
The city remained an important port until the middle Ming Dynasty when its harbor slowly silted up.
As late as the latter part of the 16th and early 17th centuries, the city was an important center of Chinese Jewry, and may have been the original home of the more well-known Kaifeng Jewish community.
Hangzhou was ruled by Republic of China government under the Kuomintang from 1928 to 1949. On May 3, 1949, the People's Liberation Army entered Hangzhou and the city came under Communist control.
The native residents of Hangzhou, like those of Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu, speak a Wu dialect. However, the Wu dialect varies throughout the area where it is spoken, hence, Hangzhou's dialect differs from regions in southern Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu. In addition, Putonghua (Mandarin) is also spoken.
Tea is an important part of Hangzhou's economy and culture. Hangzhou is best known for originating Longjing, a famous variety of green tea. Furthermore, there are many types of Longjing tea, the most famous being Xi Hu Long Jing. Known as the best type of Long Jing tea, Xi Hu Long Jing is grown near Xi Hu in Hangzhou, hence its name.
Further, Hangzhou is known for its artistic creations, such as silk, umbrellas, and Chinese hand-held folding fans.