CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 28, December 2011


West Lake and Hangzhou: a Chronology (200BCE-1911)

This outline chronology offers an overview of the history of West Lake and Hangzhou from 200BCE until the revolutionary year of 1911. It also notes dates, events and historical figures that feature in this issue of China Heritage Quarterly. Links to the relevant items (marked [⇒]) are provided throughout the text. Click here to see the full chronology.—The Editor

200BCE First mention of the city that was to become Hangzhou

326CE, Temple of the Soul's Retreat (Lingyin Si 靈隱寺) established

Southern Qi 南齊 dynasty (479-502)

Su Xiaoxiao 蘇小小, a courtesan from the area of Qiantang 錢唐, is celebrated for her talent. Following her death she is buried on the northern shore of West Lake next to what becomes known as the West Cooling Bridge (Xiling Qiao 西泠橋) that connects to the island of Solitary Hill (Gu Shan 孤山). Some accounts hold that she was frustrated in love and died of a broken heart. It is also said that a young scholar who she had helped by the name of Bao Ren 鮑仁 builds a pavilion over her grave. It is know as the Pavilion of Admired Talent (Mucai Ting 慕才亭). The simple legend on the tomb reads 'The Tomb of Su Xiaoxiao of Qiantang' (Qiantang Su Xiaoxiao zhi mu 錢塘蘇小小之墓). The tomb and the pavilion are said to still be extant in the Southern Song

Fig.1 The Pavilion of Wind on the Waves (Fengbo Ting 風波亭), West Lake. (Photograph: GRB)

Sui 隋 dynasty (581-618)

Qiantang 錢唐 prefecture renamed Hangzhou 杭州

The Grand Canal (Dayunhe 大運河) links the city with northern China

Tang 唐 dynasty (618-907)

Qiantang 錢唐 is renamed Qiantang 錢塘 766-79, Li Bi (李泌, 722-89), governor of Hangzhou, bores six wells to supply the city with drinking water drawn from the Lake

822, Bo Juyi (白居易, 772-846) serves as governor of Hangzhou; more wells are bored and causeways are built. One of the major causeways is named by the local people after him and is henceforth known as the Bo/Bai Causeway (Bo/Bai di 白堤)

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 五代十國 (907-60)

Kingdom of Wu and Yue 吳越

907-32, Qian Liu (錢鏐, 852-932)

932-41, Qian Yuanguan (錢元瓘, 887-941)

941-47, Qian Zuo (錢佐, 928-947)

947, Qian Zong (錢倧, d.947)

947-77, Qian Shu (錢俶, 929-988)
The Baochu 保俶塔 and Leifeng 雷峰塔 pagodas are built. During this time sea walls are built to protect agricultural land and inhabitants living along what becomes the Qiantang River from the depredations of tides and floods. Hydraulic works, including cleaning silt from the West Lake, dealing with storm damage and flooding become a major feature of local administration hereafter

Liao 遼 (Khitan 契丹) dynasty (916-1125)

Song 宋 dynasty (960-1279)

Northern Song 北宋 (960-1127)

Lin Bu (林逋, 967-1028) refuses to serve the Song dynasty after it has annexed the Kingdom of Wu and Yue. He lives as a hermit on the northern side of what becomes known as the island Solitary Hill in West Lake his own companions said to be cranes and the plum blossoms of the trees he cultivates. Lin becomes a symbol of purity for future generations and one denoting passive resistance

1079, the Temple of Loyalty Commemorated (Biao Zhong Guan 表忠觀) is built to honour the early rulers of Hangzhou, starting with Qian Liu

Su Shi's (蘇軾, hao Dongpo 東坡, 1037-1101) first posting to Hangzhou, as vice-prefect

1089-91, Su Shi's second posting to Hangzhou as prefect. During this time the Su Causeway is constructed. He writes the most famous poem about West Lake:

The shimmer of light on the water is the play of sunny skies,
The blur of colour across the hills is richer still in rain.
If you wish to compare the lake in the West to the Lady of the West,
Lightly powdered or thickly smeared the fancy is just as apt.

Jin 金 (Jurchen 女真) dynasty (1115-1234)

Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279)

Hangzhou, now named Lin'an 臨安, serves as capital of the displaced Song court and the 'Great Within' (Danei 大內), the inner quarters of the imperial household, is built on Phoenix Hill. The 'Ten Scenes of West Lake' (Xihu Shi Jing 西湖十景) are first spoken of during this era

1142, general Yue Fei 岳飛 is executed

1147, Han Shizhong (韓世忠, 1084-1151) builds a pavilion on Flew-Here Peak (Feilai Feng 飛來峰) dedicated to the memory of Yue Fei

Fig.2 Lake Heart Pavilion (Huxin Ting 湖心亭) with Baochu Pagoda (Baochu Ta 保俶塔) in the distance. (Photograph: GRB)

Yuan dynasty (1260-1368)

1277, Lin'an is renamed Hangzhou. The Song imperial palace is destroyed by fire. Yang Lianzhenjia 楊璉真伽 (Yang Rin-chen-skyabs, fl.1277-88), is given a formal post under the new dynasty. As Duncan Campbell notes, 'Yang Bald One' was a lama of Tangut or Tibetan origins who served as Supervisor of the Buddhist Teaching South of the Yangtze River under Khubilai Khan. He was responsible for the restoration of a large number of Buddhist temples around West Lake but earned the hatred of the native population through his greed in general and his desecration of the Song imperial tombs near Shaoxing in particular
[⇒] 1275-92, Marco Polo claims to have visited the city

Ming 明, dynasty (1368-1644)

1366, Zhu Yuanzhang, eventual founder of the Ming dynasty, leads a successful attack on Hangzhou

1442, after a period of drought West Lake dries out

1456, after a period of drought West Lake dries out

1459, Yu Qian (于謙, 1498-1457) is buried at Santai Shan. Yu Qian, a native of Hangzhou, had led Ming forces to repel a Mongol attack on the imperial capital of Beijing, but he was later betrayed and executed. With his honour restored he was celebrated as a hero loyal to the throne. His memory is commemorated in both Beijing and at West Lake

1508, West Lake restored after all but silting up and disappearing

1547, Tian Rucheng (田汝成, 1503-57) produces his West Lake Tourist Gazetteer (Xihu youlan zhi 西湖遊覽志) and its supplement. In it he describes the condition of West Lake during the early Ming as follows: 'West of the Su Embankment the higher elevations became farmland while those lower down were turned into ponds. Patches of land were crisscrossed by roads like fish scales, and there was no room left. East of the embankment all that remained was a narrow waterway that flowed like a belt'

1553-58, pirates attack the East China coast, enter Hangzhou Bay and get as far as Hangzhou

1589, The eunuch official Sun Long (孫隆), Superintendent of the Imperial Silk Manufactory of Suzhou and Hangzhou, has the Temple of the Manifest Blessings (Zhaoqing Si 昭慶寺) rebuilt

1597, Yuan Hongdao (袁宏道, 1568-1610), a famous late-Ming essayist and poet, visits West Lake for the first time

Fig.3 The Long Bridge (Chang Qiao 長橋), a new structure on West Lake. (Photograph: GRB)

1624, Zhang Dai 張岱 studies at Goulou Mountain Hut (Goulou Shanfang 岣嶁山房) [⇒]

1632, Zhang Dai pays a memorable visit to Lake Heart Pavilion (Huxin Ting 湖心亭) [⇒]

1641, drought causes West Lake to dry out and the lake bed to crack

1644, Zhang Dai is forced to flee West Lake by the fall of the Ming

Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

1644, the imperial capital of the Ming dynasty, Beijing, falls first to a peasant army from West China and then to a Manchu-led army from beyond the Great Wall. The latter make Beijing the capital of the Qing dynasty

May 1645, Qing forces take Hangzhou

1648, the new imperial authorities construct a Bannerman garrison city (qiying 旗營) some 7000 mu in size that cuts the walled city of Hangzhou off from West Lake. Ten thousand families are driven from their homes, but required to continue paying tax on the land of which they have been dispossessed

1649, You Tong (尤侗, 1618-1704) laments the decline of West Lake since the Ming

1660, a fire destroys much of the city, and another major fire strikes in 1666

1663, the first literary persecution of the Qing era begins with a case in Hangzhou involving a history of the Ming dynasty

1654, Zhang Dai revisits West Lake

1657, Zhang Dai visits West Lake again

1671, Zhang Dai writes the 'Author's Preface' for Search for West Lake in My Dreams (Xihu mengxun 西湖夢尋) [⇒]

1672, the Hangzhou scholar Gao Shiqi (高士奇, 1644-1704) comes to Kangxi's attention and is appointed to the Southern Study (Nan shufang 南書房) in the imperial palace in Beijing. Gao will accompany the emperor on the first three of this Tours of the South [⇒]

1689, the Qing emperor Kangxi visits West Lake for the first time on his second Tour of the South [⇒]

1699, Kangxi's third Tour of the South and his second visit to West Lake and Hangzhou. He commemorated the Ten Scenes of West Lake with calligraphic inscriptions. Heavy rains result in West Lake overflowing and the causeways being submerged

1703, Kangxi's third visit to West Lake

1705, Kangxi's fouth visit to West Lake

1707, Kangxi's fifth visit to West Lake on his sixth and last Tour of the South

1717, first printed edition of Zhang Dai's Search for West Lake in My Dreams published

1722, Kangxi dies at his favourite garden-palace outside the walled city of Beijing, the Garden of Delighted Spring (Changchun Yuan 暢春園). Many of the buildings, landscaped gardens and ponds are inspired by the scenes and depictions of the Lower Yangtze Valley that the emperor has become familiar during his Tours of the South. He regularly spends up to half a year 'in residence in the garden' (yuanju 園居). His fourteenth son, Yinzhen (胤禛, 1678-1735), ascends the throne under the reign title Yongzheng and continues to live in the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanming Yuan 圓明園), not far from his late father's garden residence

1722, the governor of Zhejiang, Li Wei (李衛, 1687-1738, posthumously canonised as Lord Li Minda 李敏達), is ordered to dredge the Lake and considerable efforts are made during the Yongzheng reign to restore the Lake and its environs [⇒]

Fig.4 The Grave of Wu Song, 'righteous man of the Song'. (Photograph: GRB)

1729, Yongzheng issues an edict instructing local officials 'to pay frequent attention to protecting and repairing the dragon pavilions and imperial stele pavilions built for the imperial ancestor in local places'. A Temple to the Sea God (Haishen Miao 海神廟) at Haining is also constructed on imperial order [⇒]

1731, at Li Wei's suggestion a temple is built to propitiate the tutelary god of West Lake (Hushan Shen 湖山神) on the northern edge of the Lake not far from the Temple of Yue Fei. The temple contains a Garden of Unadorned Bamboo (Zhusu Yuan 竹素園) [⇒]

1751, the Qing emperor Qianlong's first Tour of the South during which he visits Hangzhou and West Lake. At Dragon Well (Longjing 龍井) near West Lake, the emperor watches tea being picked and prepared and, as is his wont, writes a series of poems. This marks the late-dynastic, or early modern fame of this particular tea. During the mid-Qianlong era further scenes from West Lake are created at the Garden of Perfect Brightness

1757, Qianlong visits West Lake for a second time

1762, Qianlong visits West Lake for a third time

1765, Qianlong visits West Lake for a fourth time

1780, Qianlong views the Qiantang tidal bore at Haining before moving on to Hangzhou on his fifth Tour of the South. While there the emperor inquires into the whereabouts of the fifth-century courtesan Su Xiaoxiao, famous for her encounter with a young scholar and her supposed death from a broken heart. This leads to the construction of a formal stone tomb, with a stele on it announcing 'Tomb of Su Xiaoxiao of Qiantang'. 'From that moment on,' Shen Fu (沈復, 1763-1807?) complains, 'it was no longer possible for romantic poets with antiquarian obsessions to search and loiter around the area' [⇒]

1782, the Siku Quanshu 四庫全書 or the Emperor's Four Treasuries is completed and a copy presented to the Wenyuan Pavilion 文淵閣 library on West Lake

1784, on his sixth and final Tour of the South, Qianlong makes a sacrifice to the Sea Spirit (Haishen 海神) and views the Qiantang tidal bore at Jian Shan before moving on to West Lake [⇒]

1797, the official Ruan Yuan (阮元, zi Boyuan 伯元, hao Yuntai 雲台, 1764-1849) undertakes various scholastic activities and also cleans up West Lake

1800, Ruan Yuan establishes a scholastic group on Solitary Island, the Kujing Jingshe 詁經精捨. The outcrop of land know as the Islet of Master Ruan (Ruan Gong Dun 阮公墩) not far from Solitary Island is named after him, having been built up when the Lake was dredged

1806, the Bannerman official Linqing 麟慶 (Wanggiyan Lincing, 1791-1846) visits the Lake and writes about it in Wild Swan on the Snow: An Illustrated Record of My Pre-ordained Life (Hongxue yinyuan tuji 鴻雪因緣圖記) [⇒]

1841, the literati-official and thinker Gong Zizhen (龔自珍, b.1792) dies in Danyang, Jiangsu province 江蘇丹陽. Gong is later commemorated as a pre-modern patriot and his Hangzhou home is made into a museum (Gong Zizhen Jinian Guan 龔自珍紀念館)

1861, Taiping Rebels lay siege to Hangzhou. Ten thousand Qing soldiers die in the defense of the city, and a over three thousand rebels lose their lives. An estimated 800,000 people in the city either stave to death or choose to commit suicide. The population of Hangzhou declines from around one million to just over 800,000

1864, Qing forces retake Hangzhou and in a frenzy of raping and looting the population is further reduced from 800,000 to 70,000

1867, the first foreign-controlled school is established in Hangzhou. It later becomes Zhijiang University (Zhijiang daxue 之江大學)

1875, the Wang Xing fan shop (Wang Xing ji 王星記) is established, becoming the most famous purveyor of traditional fans in the city

24 June 1876, John Leighton Stuart (司徒雷登, d.1962) is born in Hangzhou

1877, the infamous prosecution of Yang Naiwu 楊乃武 and Xiao Baicai 小白菜 is overturned. They had been falsely accused of an improper relationship. Over thirty officials involved in the scandal are demoted or cashiered from government service as punishment. This marked the end of one of the famous 'four cases of outrageous injustice' (si da qi'an 四大奇案) in the late-Qing era

1878, the banker Hu Guangyong (胡光墉, 1823-1885) opens his medicine business, Huqingyu Tang 胡慶余堂, in a large, two-storey building

1883, as part of the Self-strengthening Movement (Yangwu yundong 洋務運動) an armaments factory is established in Hangzhou to manufacture ammunitions, torpedoes and to repair firearms. Also in this year the Hangzhou Telegraph Bureau is established

1888, much of the Hangzhou imperially printed copy of the Siku Quanshu stored at the Wenyuan Pavilion library is lost as a result of warfare

1892, the first modern printery is established

1895, as a result of the Shimonoseki Treaty signed following China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War, Hangzhou becomes a treaty port and a Japanese colonial concession is granted in the city. The first modern silk weaving factory is founded in Hangzhou

1896, a vast Japanese concession is established, Hangzhou is opened to direct trade and the first post office is opened

Fig.5 Commemorative arch to the Song-dynasty general Yue Fei's loyalty (the Bixie Danxin Bei 碧血丹心碑) built in 1995. (Photograph: GRB)

1897, the Seeking Truth Academy (Qiushi shuyuan 求是書院) is established in a former temple. This will later become Zhejiang University. The first modern newspapers are founded (these are Jingshi Ribao 經世日報 and Hang Bao 杭報)

1898, the first educational institution devoted to silk production is established

1899, the first modern-style high schools are established

1900, the 'Zhe Society' (Zhe Hui 浙會), an anti-Qing group of educated men who mostly go to Japan, is founded. The following year the first vernacular newspaper in the city is printed

1903, the first meeting of the Hangzhou Unbound Feet Society (Hangzhou Fangzu Hui 杭州放足會) is held at the Zhang Qinguo Temple 張勤果公祠 on West Lake to agitate against the practice of binding women's feet.

The Tide of Zhejiang (Zhejiang Chao 浙江潮), an important pro-revolution publication, is founded by a Hangzhou student studying in Japan Ye Lan 葉瀾, with Sun Yizhong 孫翼中 and Jiang Fangzhen 蔣方震. They pointedly publish photographs of the Yue Fei Temple and tomb as an anti-Qing gesture

1904, the Xiling Epigraphy Society (Xiling Yinshe 西泠印社) is established on Solitary Island. Also in this year the first women's school is founded

1905, Hangzhou merchants organize a nation-wide boycott of US manufactures; the Zhejiang Railway Company is established; Qiu Jin 秋瑾 becomes the Zhejiang representative for the revolutionary anti-Qing Tongmeng Hui that has been set up in Tokyo

1907, Qiu Jin is arrested and executed for her anti-Qing revolutionary activities. Before her execution she composes the poetic line: 'The sorrow of autumn wind and autumn rain kills' (qiufeng qiuyu chou sha ren 秋風秋雨愁煞人) [⇒]

1909, the Shanghai-Hangzhou railroad is completed, reducing travel time between the two cities from a three-day journey by boat to a three-to-four hour train trip; Qiu Jin's body is buried at West Lake

1908, Zhejiang First Normal College (Zhejiangsheng diyi shifan xuexiao 浙江省立第一師範學校) established [⇒]

1910, the photographic album Views of West Lake produced by the Me Myself Studio (Erwo Xuan Zhaoxiang Guan 二我軒照相館) is published [⇒], [⇒]

September 1910, Sun Yat-sen visits Hangzhou and holds meetings with fellow revolutionaries at the White Clouds Nunnery (Baiyun An 白雲庵), the headquarters of the Zhejiang revolutionary party at the foot of the Leifeng Pagoda. He spends the night at Liu Villa 劉莊, later Mao Zedong's favourite West Lake residence

15 September 1911, Hangzhou is taken over by revolutionaries bringing and end to Qing rule