Today's Hangzhou is one of the cradles of the Chinese civilization. 4700 years ago humans lived here and the era is named the "Liangzhu Culture". In the 2nd century B.C., during the reign of Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) Hangzhou was designated to be a county. During the Sui Dynasty (581-618) great improvements was made that developed the city to a major cultural political and economical centre. In 589 the city, previously called Qiantang and Yuhang, was named Hangzhou and around two decades later the city had got its first city gate and walls. Among the things that made this quick development possible was the construction of the Great Canal and the city wall.
The growth and the importance of the city continued over the centuries and in the period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) Hangzhou became a national capital (up till then the city was the capital of the Wuyue Kingdom.
The population grew continuously and came up to around 200 000 in the year 1100. Still growing, in 1276 it was more than one million which made Hangzhou one of the most populous cities on earth. During 1180-1315 and 1348-1358 it’s believed that Hangzhou was the largest city in the world. The city thus has been the seat of the imperial government and a centre of political economical and philosophical development.
Because of the many crowded wooden buildings Hangzhou was vulnerable to fire. In the beginning of the 13th century, in order to prevent an outbreak of fire, a fire brigade was organised, consisting of more than 3 000 fire fighters. The port of the city was also important but was silted during the Ming Dynasty. During Quing Dynasty (1644-1911) the city continued to be one of most important cities in the entire empire.
From 1928 until 1949 Hangzhou was ruled by the Nationalists (Kuomintang) under Chiang Kai-Shek but on May 3, 1949 the city was finally taken over by Communists and the People’s Liberation Army.
The city is today listed as one of the Seven Ancient capitals of China.