Hangzhou is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. It has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities of China for much of the last 1,000 years. It was settled as early as 4,700 years ago, thus giving birth to the auroral Liangzhu Civilization. One of the seven ancient capitals and the key scenic tourism and historical culture cities in China, Hangzhou once was applauded as "the most splendid and luxurious city in the world" by Marco Polo, the Italian traveller in the 13th century.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Hangzhou was founded during the Qin Dynasty as Qiantang County. It was chosen as the new capital of the Southern Song Dynasty when they regrouped in 1123. From the early 12th century until the Mongol invasion of 1276 (known as Lin'an), it served as the seat of the imperial government, a centre of trade and entertainment and the nexus of the main branches of the civil service. During that time, the city was a sort of gravitational centre of Chinese civilization. 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.
A core city of the Yangtze River Delta, Hangzhou has a position on the Hangzhou Bay 180 kilometres southwest of Shanghai that gives it economic power. It is now the most economically vigorous city in China and its economic power ranks first among sub-provincial cities. It has been rated by the World Bank as having "the best environment" in China for three years consecutively, and by Forbes Magazine as "the best city for commerce in Mainland China" for five years consecutively.
Hangzhou is known for its historic relics and natural beauty. It is often perceived as one of the most beautiful cities in China, also ranking as one of the most scenic cities. Although Hangzhou has been through many recent urban developments, it still retains its historical and cultural heritage. One of Hangzhou's most popular sights is the West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The West Lake Cultural Landscape covers an area of 33 km2 (3,323 hectares) and includes some of Hangzhou's most notable historic and scenic places. Adjacent to the lake is a scenic area which includes historical pagodas, cultural sites, as well as the natural beauty of the lake and hills.