Hangzhou was thrust onto the world stage in September as world leaders and legions of press gathered for the 11th G20 summit like the conquering hordes out of Mongolia. Hangzhou, however, was not completely unknown before the summit and if by chance you don’t know it, you should.
An important center for economic development and education since the sixth century, the city traces its roots back seven millennia. It achieved renown when Marco Polo called it “the finest and most splendid city in the world.” But even Polo was a relative newcomer to the influence of this ancient metropolis.
As a testament to its importance, its 2,000-year-old, 1,200-mile Grand Canal – longer than either Panama or Suez canals – was specifically designed to drive commerce between Beijing and Hangzhou, connecting the five rivers along the way to the two vital economic capitals.
The canal also serves as a central spot from which to take in the splendors of the city. It rests on the banks of the Qiantang River at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which is book ended to the northeast by towering Shanghai where the bay flows into the East China Sea.
China’s Silicon Valley
Today, Hangzhou is better known as Silicon Valley in Paradise for one simple reason: It is the epicenter of China’s tech industry. It hosts the headquarters of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that Wired called “every tech company rolled into