Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Hang-Chow-Foo

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HANG-CHOW-FOO, a city of China, in the province of Che-Keang, about 2 miles north-west of the Tseen-tang-Keang, at the southern terminus of the Imperial Canal, by which it communicates with Peking. It lies about 100 miles south-west of Shanghai, in 30° 20′ 20″ N. lat. and 120° 7′ 27″ E. long. Towards the west is the Si-hu or “Western Lake,” a beautiful sheet of water, with its banks and islands studded with villas, monuments, and gardens, and its surface traversed by gaily-painted pleasure boats. To the Chinese it is a very paradise. Exclusive of extensive and flourishing suburbs, the city has a circuit of 12 miles; its streets are well-paved and clean; and it possesses a large number of arches, public monuments, temples, hospitals, and colleges. It has long ranked as one of the great centres of Chinese commerce and Chinese learning. In 1869 the silk manufactures alone were said to give employment to 60,000 persons within its walls, and it has an extensive production of gold and silver work and tinsel paper. On one of the islands in the lake is the great Wan-lan-ko or pavilion of literary assemblies, and it is said that at the examinations for the second degree twice every three years from 10,000 to 15,000 candidates come together. In the north-east corner of the city is the Nestorian church which was noted by Marco Polo, the façade being “elaborately carved and the gates covered with elegantly wrought iron.” There is a Roman Catholic mission in Hang-chow, and the Church Missionary Society, the American Presbyterians, and the Baptists have likewise stations. The local dialect differs from the Mandarin mainly in pronunciation. The population, which is remarkable for gaiety of clothing, was formerly reckoned at 2,000,000, but is now variously estimated at 300,000, 400,000, or 800,000.

Hang-chow-foo is the Kinsai of Marco Polo, who describes it as the finest and noblest city in the world, and speaks enthusiastically of the number and splendour of its mansions and the wealth and luxuriance of its inhabitants. According to his authority it had a circuit of 100 miles, and no fewer than 12,000 bridges and 3000 baths. The name Kinsai, which appears in Wassaf as Khanzai, in Ibn Batuta as Khansa, in Ordericus as Camsay, and elsewhere as Campsay and Cassay, is really a corruption of the Chinese King-se, capital, the same word which is still applied to Peking. From the 10th to the 13th century (9601272) the city, whose real name was then Ling-nan, was the capital of Southern China and the seat of the Sung dynasty, which was dethroned by the Mongolians shortly before Marco Polo's visit. Up to 1861, when it was laid in ruins by the Taipings, Hangchow continued to maintain its position as one of the most flourishing cities in the empire, and though for a time it lay comparatively desolate, it has considerably recovered within recent years. It is the seat of the governor of Che-Keang; but the governor-general or viceroy for Che-Keang and Fuh-Keen is now located at Fuh-chow. See Colonel Yule’s edition of Marco Polo, vol. ii., for a plan of the city and further details.