The celebrated Neolithic culture of Hemudu inhabited Yuyao, an area (now a city) 100 kilometers south-east of Hangzhou, as far back as seven thousand years ago when
Pottery of the Liangzhu culture
|rice was first cultivated in southeastern China. The area immediately surrounding the modern city of Hangzhou was inhabited five thousand years ago by the Liangzhu culture, so named for the small town of Liangzhu not far to the northwest of Hangzhou where the ancient jade carving civilization was first discovered.
The city of Hangzhou was founded during the Qin Dynasty as Qiantang County (Chinese: 钱塘县). In AD 589, the city was renamed "Hangzhou", literally meaning "River-ferrying Prefecture", and a city wall was constructed two years later. It is listed as one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China. Hangzhou is at the southern end of China's Grand Canal which extends to Beijing. The canal evolved over centuries but reached its full length by 609. It was the capital of the Wuyue Kingdom from 907 to 978 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. Named Xifu at the time, it was one of the three great centers of culture in southern China during the tenth century, along with Nanjing and Chengdu. Leaders of Wuyue were noted patrons of the arts, and especially of Buddhism and associated temple architecture and artwork. It also became a cosmopolitan center, drawing scholars from throughout China and conducting diplomacy not only with neighboring Chinese states, but also with Japan, Korea, and the Khitan Liao Dynasty.