Hangzhou was founded AD 606 and was from 907 to 960 the capital of a powerful kingdom. Many of the city's picturesque monasteries and shrines date from this period. It was the capital of the Southern Sung dynasty from 1132 to 1276, when it was sacked by Kublai Khan. In the Southern Sung period Hangzhou, rich with a thriving silk trade, was a center of art, literature, and scholarship and a cosmopolitan city with a large colony of foreign merchants—Arabs, Persians, and Nestorian Christians. Marco Polo, who visited it then, described it as the finest and noblest city in the world. It was famous for its splendid buildings before its near destruction (1861) during the Taiping Rebellion; it was subsequently rebuilt along mainly modern lines.
The city's modern prosperity dates from the opening of the Shanghai-Hangzhou-Ningbo RR in 1909. It was occupied by the Japanese from 1937 to 1945, and it fell to the Communists in 1949. Hangzhou is the seat of Zhejiang Univ., Hangzhou Univ., an agricultural institute, a medical college, and an institute of fine arts. Also in the city are Lingyin Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple founded in AD 326; botanical gardens; an art museum; and an astronomical observatory.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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