Hangzhou located in southern China, was a very large city approximately one hundred miles around. An estimated one million people lived in Hangzhou. It was considered one of the greatest cities in the world by the 13th century because it was a center of trade. Although there are full accounts of Hangzhou when it was still ruled by Sung Empire of China, much of the descriptions of Hangzhou under Mongol rule came from explorer Marco Polo. Polo referred to Hangzhou as his Quinsai, which means temporary residence. The city reminded him of his hometown in Venice. A priority of the Mongols was to defeat and incorporate China into their empire; it took almost seventy years to accomplish that feat. Lead by Qubilai Khan, in c. 1276 the Mongols had captured Hangzhou, the Sung capital. By c. 1279 the Mongols controlled all of China.
Hangzhou had many canals and approximately ten thousand streets. The streets were paved with stone and brick. Street paving was necessary because much of the city was built around water lagoons. To prevent flooding on the streets the city had a water runoff system. The water was redirected to nearby canals through gravel channels built next to the streets. There were approximately twelve hundred bridges made of stone, but some of the bridges were constructed from wood. These bridges elevated the city traffic above the fresh water lake and rivers.
One main street stretched from one end of the city to the other and was always crowded with people. There were ten square areas, which were designated for the market, that faced the main street. Three days a week merchants and vendors, between forty to fifty thousand of them, would set up shop alongside the main street. Butchers even slaughtered big game animals on site at the market. The ten market square areas were surrounded by structures that had livings quarters on the top and shops on the bottom.
At either end of the main street there stood large imposing structures. These structures housed deputed lords whom were charged with the watch of the city. With the large crowds that gathered there needed to be some control. Another feature of Hangzhou was public bath houses. There were approximately three thousand bath houses. The baths were claimed to be so large as to fit one hundred men into a single bath comfortably.