For the Chinese Hangzhou ranks with Guilin as the country's most famous tourist attraction. Famous for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and nearby West Lake (Xi Hu in Chinese) have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276, and in this time the city's population grew to 1.75 million inhabitants, making it the largest city in the world. When Marco Polo passed through it, he called it "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world".
Nowadays Hangzhou is an elegant city lying in a beautiful setting. Along the west lake there are high end shops selling branded goods, expensive restaurants and a beautiful waterfront. The sights near Hangzhou (mostly temples and pagodas) are however less impressive, since they have been rebuilt recently after having been destroyed in the 20th century. In fact Hangzhou is overrated as a tourist destination. The air in Hangzhou is terribly polluted as in most of eastern China.
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