Hangzhou is known, along with nearby Suzhou, as one of the most beautiful cities in China. Suzhou is known for its gardens while Hangzhou lies on the shores of the scenic West Lake. Throughout Chinese history both cities have been prosperous and attracted scholars and artists.
Hangzhou is located in northwestern Zhejiang province, in the Yangtze River Delta at the southern end of the Grand Canal which runs north to Beijing. The city center is built around the eastern and northern sides of the West Lake, just north of the Qiantang River. A core city of the Yangtze River Delta, it is 180 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Shanghai. It has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities of China for much of the last 1,000 years, due in part to its beautiful natural scenery. The city’s West Lake is its best-known attraction. When northern China was overrun by the Jurchens, Hangzhou was chosen as the capital of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). The Song court retreated south to the city in 1129 from its original capital in Kaifeng, after it was captured by the Jurchens in 1127. Although the Song government intended it as a temporary capital, Hangzhou grew into a major commercial and cultural center. It is believed that Hangzhou was the largest city in the world from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The Venetian merchant Marco Polo supposedly visited Hangzhou in the late 13th century and called it the city “greater than any in the world.” In the mid-1800s Hangzhou was heavily damaged during the Taiping Rebellion. Modern Hangzhou is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. As of 2010, the urban and suburban area of the Hangzhou municipality had a resident population of 6.2 million.
For the seal carver Hangzhou may be the most important city in China. Although many artists live in Beijing, the capital, or moved to the prosperous growing city of Shanghai, Hangzhou is home to the Xiling Seal Society, the China Seal Museum, and the China Academy of Art—perhaps the only university in China to regularly teach courses in seal carving. Surrounding the Art Academy is a neighborhood filled with galleries, art supply stores, and art bookstores. And, because Qingtian seal stone is quarried not far from Hangzhou, it is readily available in the city’s Stone Market and numerous art stores.The beauty of the city also makes it a welcome alternative for the artist to the crowds and pollution of Beijing and Shanghai.
For more on Hangzhou visit their Wikipedia page.