Hangzhou was established as a major commercial city in China during the Sui Dynasty (581-618). In Southern Song Dynasty, it was one of the largest and finest cities in the world. Numerous philosophers, politicians, and men of letters, including some of the most celebrated poets in Chinese history such as Su Shi, Lu You, and Xin Qiji came to this little bit of paradise to live. Marco Polo claimed to have visited Hangzhou at this time, calling it Kinsai or Quinsay.
Since 1279 AD, Hangzhou remained a commercial and trading center, but slowly declined as a port. Since the construction of railways and highways in the 20th century, Hangzhou has increased in economic importance again. With its cultural relics now restored and preserved, Hangzhou is renowned as one of the six famous ancient capitals of China. West Lake (Xihu) is an especially popular destination for its picturesque scenery and associations with many famous emperors, poets and painters.