Hangzhou (hangˈjōˈ) [key] or Hangchow hăngˈchou, city (1994 est. pop. 1,184,300), capital of Zhejiang prov., E China. It is on the Fuchun River at the head of Hangzhou Bay and handles river traffic through its port. It is also a rail hub with important links to Shanghai. Long a famous silk-producing center, Hangzhou has recently been developed into a major industrial complex. Manufactures include silk and cotton textiles, iron and steel products, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, cement, rubber, paper and bamboo products, chemicals, machine tools, electronic equipment, and processed tea. Hangzhou's charming natural setting on the shore of scenic Xihu (West Lake) amid high, wooded hills attracts many tourists. Many Chinese officials have vacation homes on the lake.
Hangzhou was founded A.D. 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 A.D. 326; botanical gardens; an art museum; and an astronomical observatory.
Hangzhou Bay is an arm of the East China Sea and begins at the mouth of the Fuchun River. When the tide is coming in, the funnel shape of the bay creates a spectacular bore, which can reach 25 ft (8 m) in height amd sweeps past Hangzhou, menacing shipping. The 22.4 mi (36 km) Hangzhou Bay Bridge crosses the bay between Zhapu (N) and Cixi (S). Zhoushan Archipelago lies across the southern entrance of the bay.