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China -> Hangzhou
Zhejiang Province

For the Chinese, Hangzhou is one of the most famous tourist destinations in China. Marco Polo seemed to think the same thing, describing it as one of the finest and most splendid cities in the world. Hangzhou is famous for its West Lake ("Xihu") that is surrounded by hills and forests, and sprinkled with temples and pagodas.

Hangzhou began during the Qin dynasty in 221BC but really began to prosper after it was connected to the Grand Canal in 621 and later as the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty in 1126. The Song were forced south due to invading Jurchen and this caused Hangzhou to become the center of the Chinese state. While the population exploded due to incoming military, civil and court officials, and merchants, Hangzhou's trading industry also saw exponential growth.

Later, when the Song was overthrown by Mongols, Hangzhou lost its title and Beijing was reinstated as the capital of the new Yuan dynasty. It still remained prosperous, however, until the Taiping Rebellion in 1861 when almost the entire city was leveled and it lost most than half a million of its residents through disease, starvation, and warfare. Since then, foreign concessions have helped the city rebuild and be put back on the map. Hangzhou now serves as one of China's most popular tourist destinations due to its famous West Lake, and Six Harmonies Pagoda.

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