Geographically speaking, the
city was strategically located. Lying on the left bank of the Huaihe River,
the city stood on an estuary at the point it enters the sea. The local
economy was very prosperous, thanks to abundant resources. Bao Chao vividly describes the prosperous city of Yangzhou during the Eastern and Western Han dynasties in his "Ode to the City of Wucheng".
Emperor Yang Guang of the Sui Dynasty, ordered the digging of the
Grand Canal that links the Yangtze River in the south with the Yellow
River in the north. This made Yangzhou all the more important economically. During the 14 years of his rule, Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty built ten palaces and luxurious towers which became his retreat. A peasant uprising
overthrew the Sui Dynasty and Yang Guang had to find eternal rest in a
lonely tomb in Leitang.
Yangzhou became even more prosperous during the Tang,and by the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Tian Bao, there was a population of more than 470,000. Included in this number were more than 5,000 Arabian merchants, Japanese monks and because it was also a cultural center that attracted scholars from all over the country, there were many students who came to study Buddhist scriptures and Chinese culture.
Yangzhou endured many upheavals during the more than 800 years from the Song and Yuan to the Ming Dynasty. Nevertheless, its charm and beauty has never been damaged by the ravages of war and political chaos. In his travelogue, Marco Polo said that when he came to Yangzhou he felt as if he had ventured into a wonderland.
The Qing court attached great importance to the historical role of the city. With a view to stabilizing the political situation in the country, developing the economy and appeasing the elite of the ethnic hans, the Qing emperor did their share in invigorating the city. Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong made six inspection tours of Yangzhou and pushed it
to the peak of prosperity again. A great number of gardens and buildings were constructed and a wealth of paintings and calligraphic works were created at a unique school of culture --the Yangzhou school.