Hangzhou continued to prosper under the Mongols, and traders flocked to the area. When the Yuan fell the town continued to flourish under the Ming and travelers continued to record Hangzhou’s great size, enormous population and scenic beauty of its surroundings, the majesty of its buildings, and the pleasures it offered.
Under the Qing the town was still considered one of the richest and largest in the empire. However, Hangzhou’s commercial and political importance suffered dramatically during the savage Taiping rebellion in the mid-nineteenth Century, when a great part of the city was razed, monasteries, temples, and pagodas destroyed or severely damaged, and a large number of its population slaughtered. That there are so few buildings of historic interest remaining in Hangzhou is attributable directly to the excesses of the rebellion
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, following a treaty in 1895, Hangzhou was opened up to foreign (mostly Japanese) trade. Industrial development was also stimulated when Hangzhou was linked by rail to Shanghai, but the greatest impetus came after the 1949 revolution when sizable industrial complexes were established. These now pro- duce machine tools, iron and steel, petroleum products, and chemical fertilizers. But the main manufacturing base is still the silk-textile industry. Local craft factories also turn out chopsticks, sandalwood fans, brocades, silk tapestries, satins, and parasols.
The soil around Hangzhou is fertile. The leading agricultural product is tea, notably the famous Dragon Wall brand. Areas further afield Produce mandarins, oranges, sugar ease, bamboo, and timber. The main crops are rice, cotton, rape, hemp, and flax.
Even today the city is renowned for its scenic beauty, which some claims is unsurpassed in China; and although many of the historic buildings have been destroyed, the archeological attractions that re- main are still impressive. Many sections of the town have not Changed for centuries, while the famous West Lake region retains its place as one.of the best-known beauty spots in China, with landscaped gardens. On its banks, tree-shaded walks, and in the nearby hills, temples, pagodas, and monasteries.
If you happen to be visiting in September during the autumn equinox, you may be able to see one of the most unusual sights in the world. A tidal bore gathers momentum in the Gulf of Hangzhou, surges into the mouth of the Qiang Tang, and races up the river, reputedly at a height of 30 feet and a speed of more than 15 m.p.h. In ancient times the governors of Hangzhou used to have mows fired at these waves in an attempt to quell their destructive force. Nowadays more effective methods are used.