Hangzhou was settled as early as 4,700 years ago. As one of the seven ancient capitals and a key scenic tourism and historical culture city in China, Hangzhou was once applauded as "the most splendid and luxurious city in the world" by Marco Polo, the Italian traveler in the 13th century.
Rich in historical heritage and colorful cultures, Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Song dynasty from 1132 to 1276, when it was ruled by Kublai Khan. During that period, Hangzhou was rich with a thriving silk trade, was a center of art, literature, and scholarship, and was a cosmopolitan city with a large colony of foreign merchants.
Hangzhou is approximately 125 miles, or 2 hours, from Shanghai, and is connected by railway and highway. As a famous scenic city in China, Hangzhou attracts more than 20 million domestic and foreign tourists every year. While it is most well known for the natural beauty of the West Lake, it also offers glimpses of Southern Song royal palace relics, as well as Qing Dynasty resorts and gardens. These gardens stresses elegance and delicacy, which is an important sect in Chinese gardening art.
Hangzhou has had a prosperous Buddhist culture since the fourth century AD, and many places of interest are closely related to Buddhism. Ancient pagodas in Hangzhou hold an prominent position in Chinese architecture history. The octagonal pagoda built in Wuyue Kingdom is a milestone and the grottos on mountains around the West Lake are a significant chapter in Chinese grotto and stone carving history.
Sightseeing in Hangzhou has continued for centuries. Folk events such as spring outing, dragon boat competition, incense market, Qiantang bore viewing, lantern festival and osmanthus appreciation are still enjoyed by many visitors. There is so much interplay among Hangzhou’s folk custom, natural surroundings, cultural heritage, and economic development that they always make visitors want to come back again and again.