Hangzhou

Like the rest of China, Hangzhou is very old, with evidence of people living there 5000 years ago. The city really developed with the Qin Dynasty (221 BCE- 206 BCE), and it was one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China [1]. For a period beginning in the 12th century, Hangzhou was the seat of the Chinese government under the Southern Song Dynasty for about 140 years [2]. The Southern Song dynasty was conquered by the Mongol invasion around 1260 CE. When Marco Polo visited the city he described it as “splendid” and “luxurious” [3].

Ibn Battuta had some of the same feelings as Marco Polo. He said that Hangzhou was the largest city he had ever seen on this earth. The editor of The Travels of Ibn Battuta makes a note that, for the time period, Hangzhou may have been the most populous city on earth [4]. Ibn Battuta stayed with the Muslims in Hangzhou for fifteen days. While staying with these Muslims, Ibn Battuta was able to meet the amir Qurtay, who was the supreme commander of China. The son of the amir had a love for music, and travelled with musicians from Middle Eastern countries and China. This was the last city Ibn Battuta visited in China. He travelled from China all the way back to Morocco, Spain and western Africa around 1348.

Hangzhou is part of the People’s Republic of China, which became a communist country in 1949. Hangzhou is a popular tourist destination because of the famous West Lake, which was completed in the 13th century. Like the rest of the Chinese cities Ibn Battuta visited, there is still a small number of Muslims living in Hangzhou. The influence of Islam was very prevalent for Ibn Battuta to make it all the way from Asia Minor to China and to be able to find Muslims and people who spoke Arabic all along the way.

 

Sources:

[1] “A Short History of Hangzhou.” Accessed August 19, 2012. http://gochina.about.com/od/cityareaguidesinchina/p/HistoryHZ.htm.

[2] “A Short History of Hangzhou.” Accessed August 19, 2012. http://gochina.about.com/od/cityareaguidesinchina/p/HistoryHZ.htm.

[3] “A Short History of Hangzhou.” Accessed August 19, 2012. http://gochina.about.com/od/cityareaguidesinchina/p/HistoryHZ.htm.

[4] Macintosh-Smith, Tim. The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador, 2003.