On 8 July 2011 the central government approved Zhoushan as Zhoushan Archipelago New Area, a state-level new area.
The archipelago was inhabited 6,000 years ago during the Neolithic by people of the Hemudu culture. During the Spring and Autumn period, Zhoushan was called Yongdong, referring to its location east of the Yong River. At the time, it belonged to the state of Yue. The fishermen and sailors who inhabited the islands often engaged in piracy and became recruits for uprisings against the central authorities. At the time of the Eastern Jin, the Zhoushan Islands served as the base for Sun En's rebellion. Sun En, an adherent of the Taoist sect the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice, launched his rebellion around the year 400 and was defeated by Jin forces in 402. Today's Zhoushan was first created as Wengshan County in Ming Prefecture in 738 under the Tang.
In 863, the Japanese Buddhist monk Egaku (慧锷) and a Putuoshan local Zhang-shi (张氏) placed a statue of Guanyin at Chaoyin Cave (潮音洞) that would later become a popular tourist and pilgrim destination. In 1073, under the Song, it was renamed Changguo County; this was upgraded to a prefecture in the early Yuan dynasty.During the Ming dynasty, especially between the years 1530 and 1560, Japanese and Chinese pirates used Zhoushan as one of their principal bases from which they launched attacks as far as Nanjing; "the whole Chinese coast from northern Shandong to western Guangdong was ravaged to a distance of sixty miles inland."
After suppression of the pirates, Zhoushan became an important commercial entrepôt. Under the early Qing dynasty, it played a similar role to Xiamen and Guangzhou as a frequent port of call for Western traders. Changguo Prefecture became Dinghai County within Zhejiang Province in 1688 under the Qing. The restriction of all European trade to the port of Guangzhou in 1760 forced Westerners to leave Zhoushan. One of the requests of Lord Macartney's embassy to the Qianlong Emperor in 1793 was an acquisition of "a small unfortified island near Zhoushan for the residence of English traders, storage of goods, and outfitting of ships." The Qianlong Emperor denied this request together with all the rest.
British forces under Captain Charles Elliot captured Zhoushan on 5–6 July 1840 during the First Opium War and evacuated it in early 1841, after Elliot reached an agreement with Qishan, the Governor-General of Tianjin and Grand Secretary to the Daoguang Emperor, in exchange for cession of Hong Kong. At that time, Zhoushan was a well known port while Hong Kong was still only a fishing village. The British Foreign Secretary Palmerston was famously livid when he learned that Elliot agreed to the cession of Hong Kong ("a barren island with hardly a house on it") while giving up Zhoushan. Elliot was dismissed in April 1841 for his blunder. His replacement Sir Henry Pottinger led a British fleet that recaptured Zhoushan on 1 October 1841. The First Opium War ended with conclusion of the Treaty of Nanjing in which China opened up the cities of Guangzhou ("Canton"), Fuzhou ("Foochow"), Xiamen ("Amoy"), Ningbo ("Ningpo"), and Shanghai to residence by British subjects for the purpose of trade. As a result, Britain no longer had any use for Zhoushan but it kept the island until 1846 as a guarantee for the fulfilment of the stipulations of the treaty. Dinghai was upgraded to a directly-controlled subprefecture (定海直隸廳) sometime in 1841.
Zhoushan was also occupied by the British in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Wang Yijun, a leader of the Taiping rebels, attempted to retake Zhoushan from its Qing garrison on 13 February 1862 but was defeated and killed.
Following the Xinhai Revolution and the establishment of the Republic of China, Dinghai Subprefecture reverted to a county. Sun Yat-sen visited Zhoushan on 25 August 1916 and wrote Travelling to Putuo (游普陀志奇, You Putuo Zhiqi). On 1 October 1942, the Japanese ship Lisbon Maru was transporting 1,800 POWs to Tokyo when she was attacked by the USS Grouper off Qingbing (青浜) or Dongfu; one torpedo hit and she sank the next day. The fishermen of nearby Dongji (东极乡) rescued 384 of the British prisoners from the wreckage. Amid the Chinese Civil War, Dinghai County lost Shengsi, which became an Archipelago Directly-controlled District (列島直屬區) of Jiangsu in 1946, then a separate county in October 1949. The same year, Dinghai County was divided into Dinghai and Wengzhou (翁洲) Counties. In November, the Communists landed on Dengbu Island, but were repulsed by the defenders.
Nevertheless, Zhoushan was overrun by the Communists on 17 May 1950. Wengzhou was merged back into Dinghai County, which made up part of Ningbo Prefecture, and Shengsi made up a special area (特区) and then county of the Songjiang Prefecture, then still part of Jiangsu. In March 1953, the Council of Ministers opted to establish the Zhoushan Prefecture, returning Shengsi and dividing Dinghai into Dinghai, Putuo, and Daishan. Ningbo's Xiangshan County was also briefly incorporated into this new prefecture from 1954 to 1958. From 1958 to May 1962, Zhoushan was incorporated into Ningbo before becoming a separate prefecture again. Shengsi was temporarily assigned to Shanghai in the early 1960s. The short-lived Daqu County (大衢縣) was created in 1962 before being redivided between Daishan and Shengsi four years later.
Zhoushan was promoted to a prefecture-level "city" on 27 January 1987, with Dinghai and Putuo Counties upgraded to districts. The municipal People's Government was established on 8 March of that year. April of the same year, the ports of Zhoushan became open to foreign ships. On 10 April 1988, it became a coastal economic open zone.
The prefecture-level city of Zhoushan administers two districts and two counties. These are further divided into 45 township-level divisions, including 24 towns, 12 townships and 9 subdistricts. In 2013, Zhoushan modified its administrative divisions to a total of 35 township-level divisions, including 17 towns, 5 townships and 13 subdistricts. Detailed divisions are listed as follows.
The Zhoushan Archipelago, comprising 1,390 islands and 3,306 reefs, is located outside of Hangzhou Bay. It is the largest archipelago of China. Among these islands, 103 are inhabited all year round, 58 are larger than one square kilometer, and only 12 have populations over 10,000. Below is a list of major inhabited islands.
(DH = Dinghai District, PT = Putuo District, DS = Daishan County, SS = Shengsi County)
There are 6 Major Large Islands (over 50 km2 (19 sq mi)):
There are 11 Middle-sized Islands (between 10 and 50 km2 (3.9 and 19.3 sq mi)):
Zhoushan includes 20,800 km2 (8,031 sq mi) of marine territory, but only 1,440.12 km2 (556 sq mi) of land, 183.19 km2 (71 sq mi) of which are submerged during high tides. It is 182 km (113 mi) east-west and 169 km (105 mi) north-south and although heavily populated now has few farms.
Zhoushan has a four-season, monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with cool, damp winters, and hot, humid summers. Conditions, especially during summer, are generally moderated by the surrounding waters of the East China Sea, bringing a January average of 5.8 °C (42.4 °F) and August average of 27.1 °C (80.8 °F), with an annual mean of 16.43 °C (61.6 °F). Precipitation is significant throughout the year, with the greatest rainfall during summer. With 1,938 hours of bright sunshine annually, ranging from 34% sunshine in March to 56% in July, the second half of the year is sunnier.
According to the report from the Sixth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China, the total population of Zhoushan Municipality is 1,121,261 with 588,414 males and 532,847 females as of 1 November 2010, among which an overwhelmingly majority is Han Chinese (1,109,813). The number of household is about 454,800. For an administrative division distribution, Dinghai District has a population of 464,184, Putuo District has a population of 378,805, Daishan County has a population of 202,164 and Shengsi County has a population of 76,108. In terms of education attainment, about 10 percent of the total population (115,286) has received higher education, while a population of 77,577 is illiterate or half-illiterate. In terms of age distribution, there is a children (aged 0–14) population of 114,265 and a senior population of 176,331.
Traditionally Zhoushan had relied heavily on the primary industry, especially fishing, given Zhoushan is the largest fishery in China. Nowadays with the development of the secondary and tertiary industries, Zhoushan's economic base has been largely diversified. Ship building and repairing, shipping, light industry, tourism and service industry grow to be the major contributors of local economic output. In 2016, the entire municipality achieved a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 122.85 billion yuan (approximately 16,013 US dollars per capita), with an increase of 11.3% from the previous year. The city continuously ranked 3rd among 11 municipalities of Zhejiang Province. However, since Zhoushan has a significantly smaller population compared with other municipalities, the absolute figure of total GDP still ranked the last place in the province. The structure of three sectors of industry is 10.6 : 39.8 : 49.6. In 2012, Zhoushan Port alone processed 290,990 kilotons of cargo. If combined with Ningbo Port (Ningbo and Zhoushan Ports are essentially one port with shared infrastructure, harbor basin and administrative collaboration), the entire greater port handled approximately 744,000 kilotons of cargo, surpassing Shanghai Port to be world's new busiest port in terms of cargo tonnage.
In 2012, Zhoushan's per capita disposable income of urban residents reached 34,224 yuan, with a 12.2% increase from the previous year (an increase of 10.3% considering the price and inflation factors). On the other hand, Zhoushan's per capital net income of rural residents reached 18,601 yuan, with a 12.9% increase from the previous year (an increase of 11.0% considering the price and inflation factors). The Engel's Coefficients for urban and rural residents are 35.9% and 38.1% respectively. The average housing building areas are 32.39 and 49.10 square meters for urban and rural residents respectively.
Zhoushan is served by different modes of transportation, including air, highway and water. The transportation condition in Zhoushan has been improved largely during recent years, especially after the opening of Zhoushan Trans-Oceanic Bridges in 2009, which established a stable corridor connecting to the continent and converted Zhoushan into a peninsula per se. Due to geographical isolation, Zhoushan is the only one of the municipalities in Zhejiang Province which is not served with rail transportation.
There exist 2 power connections: HVDC Zhoushan, the first HVDC built in China and Zhoushan Island Overhead Powerline Tie with the tallest electricity pylons in the world, as well as the world's longest span.
Zhoushan, which proudly boasts two national level key scenic areas (Mount Putuo and Shengsi Islands) and two provincial level key scenic areas (Taohua Island and Daishan), is always praised to be the "backyard garden" of Yangtze River Delta. Beside these scenic areas, Zhoushan has an abundance of points of interest, landscape forms and tourism resources, many of which are still under development, due to its rich historic and natural endowment. Conveniently connected to the continental part of the delta, Zhoushan attracted 27.71 million visitors (which is approximately 25 times its population), 310.5 thousand of whom were from abroad, in 2012 alone. Tourism and its related services have risen to be a very important sector of the municipal economy with a total tourism revenue of 26.68 billion yuan, according to the 2012 statistic.
Mount Putuo National Scenic Area (普陀山国家级重点风景名胜区) consists of two parts, Mount Putuo and Zhujiajian Eastern Coast, although most people would easily ignore the latter part due to its overwhelming fame of Mount Putuo. The scenic area, with a total area of 41.85 square kilometers, is the only place in China where combines the mountain and sea views, and religious culture perfectly.
On a visit in the early 1830s, missionary Karl Gützlaff noted that the island of "Poo-to" (普陀山) boasted two large and 60 small temples, attended by 2,000 monks,
To every person who visits this island, it appears at first like a fairy land, so romantic is everything which meets the eye. Those large inscriptions hewn in solid granite, the many temples which appear in every direction, the highly picturesque scenery itself, with its many-peaked, riven, and detached rocks, and above all a stately mausoleum, the largest which I have ever seen, containing the bones and ashes of thousands of priests, quite bewilder the imagination.
Mount Putuo (普陀山), also named Mount Meicen (梅岑山) and Mount Baihua (白华山), is considered the bodhimanda of Avalokitesvara (Guanyin), a revered Bodhisattva in many parts of East Asia. It is one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism, the others being Mount Wutai, Mount Jiuhua, and Mount Emei. However, different from other three sacred mountains which are mountains with heights of more than 1,000 meters, Mount Putuo is actually a small island with a total area of 12.5 square kilometers, the highest point of which is Peak Foding (291.3 meters above the sea level). Mount Putuo features three grand temples (Puji Temple, Fayu Temple, and Huiji Temple), three treasures (Tahoto Pagoda, Yangzhi Guanyin Stele, and Nine-Dragon Caisson), three rocks (Rock Pantuo, Heart Rock, and Rock Ergui Tingfa), three caves (Cave Chaoyang, Cave Chaoyin and Cave Fanyin), 88 nunneries and 128 huts, and twelve scenes. Mount Putuo was praised in various historic records. It is often titled as Bulguksa Among Seas and Skies (海天佛国), or Sacred Ground on the Southern Seas (南海圣境）. Mount Putuo is always mentioned in the same breath with the West Lake in Hangzhou, another national scenic area of Zhejiang. West Lake is considered to be the foremost place that combines mountain and lake views, whereas Mount Putuo is deemed as the top place where integrates mountain and sea views (以山而兼湖之胜，则推西湖；以山而兼海之胜，当推普陀).
Zhujiajian (朱家尖) is the fifth largest island of the archipelago and a newly developed seaside resort with intriguing seascapes, unmarred beaches, dense woods, sheer rock cliffs, hills for hiking, extraordinary seafood and displays of fishermen folk culture. It is home to the Zhoushan International Sand Sculpture Festival, which is held on the Nansha Beach, one of the five consecutive beaches, at the turn of summer and autumn every year. Daqing Mountain is the best location to get the incomparable view of southern Zhoushan Islands and the continental China (Chuanshan Peninsula) on clear days. It is also an ideal place for extreme sports, such as car racing, mountain cycling, gliding, rock climbing and bungee jumping. Baishan Mountain features huge natural rocks of different shapes, Guanyin carving on the cliff, and the Putuo Impression show, directed by Zhang Yimou. Zhujiajian is also the site for Mount Putuo Buddhist Academy. Wushitang (Dark Stone Beach) is the 500-meter beach consisting of numerous dark colored pebbles.
Shengsi Islands National Scenic Area (嵊泗列岛国家级重点风景名胜区) is the only national level scenic area in China that is established on a group of natural islands. The scenic area, consisting of hundreds of islands outlying the Hangzhou Bay, boasts multiple quality beaches, rocks, and cliffs. Although it is commonly endowed with natural seascape beauty, each island is unique. Jihu and Nanchangtu Twin Beaches, the northernmost sand beaches of Southern China (and the natural beaches closest to Shanghai), make Sijiao Island a popular tourism destination. Shengshan is one of the most important fishing ports on the East China Sea. The eastern coast of Shengshan Island features steep cliffs, an ideal place to view sunrise above the sea. On the north coast is the abandoned fishing village of Houtouwan, now overgrown with vegetation. Gouqi Island is famous for its well-preserved fishing villages and cultures, the largest aquatic farm in China and the Mountain and Sea Wonders (山海奇观) rock that was believed to be left by General Hou Jigao of Ming Dynasty, who defended the southeastern coast against the raids from wokou. Huaniao Island features the Huaniao Lighthouse, initially built in 1870 with the reputation of the first lighthouse of the Far East (远东第一灯塔), that stands on the busiest shipping route in China entering and leaving Shanghai and the Yangtze River. The lighthouse has been on the National Major Historical and Cultural Sites list under protection since 2001.
Taohua Island is the most botanically diversified island in Zhejiang's coastal area, with nearly 600 species of trees and plants, including oranges, orchids and narcissus – and now peach trees. It is also a popular site for shooting movies and TV series based on Mr. Jin Yong’s novels. Four Chinese TV serials – "The Eagle-Shooting Heroes," "Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils," "The Return of the Condor Heroes" and "Duke of Mount Deer" – were filmed on the island. Starting from 2004, the Jin Yong Martial Arts (Wuxia) Culture Festival is held here every other year around summer. It offers dazzling martial arts performances and competitions, all thrilling for Cha’s fans.
Daishan (岱山), originally known as Penglai, is believed to be the reached by Xu Fu of Qin Dynasty during his eastward journey to Japan. Mount Moxin, with a height of 257 meters above the sea level, is the highest peak on Daishan Island, from where visitors can get the fantastic view of Gaoting, the county seat, and nearby islands and water channels. Ciyun Temple is the major temple on Mount Moxin and a popular scenic spot. Lulan-qingsha Beach, measuring a length of 3,600 meters and a width of 500 meters, is the single longest beach of Eastern China. It is an ideal place for camping, flying kites, and movie-shooting. The beach is also the location for yearly worship services or matsuris of the ocean for fishing harvest. Dongsha Ancient Town was once the county seat of Daishan, that is famous for hundreds years of commercial and exchange activities associated to traditional fishing industry. Several major buildings and facilities have been well protected. Shuanghe features wonderful large-scale man-made cliffs and precipices which are the result of hundreds years of carving for granite materials for architectural purposes. Daishan has the reputation of being a county of museums. Its collection of museums include themes such as fishing culture, Zhoushan dialect, typhoon, lighthouse, salt production, etc. Besides the above-stated attractions on Daishan Island, other islands are noteworthy as well. For example, Xiushan Island features the only inter-tidal mud theme park in China. Qushan Island features Mount Guanyin, which is also a bodhimanda of Guanyin. Changtu is a traditional fishing port, which is famous for its Wojingtan Hard Cake.
Zhoushan City has 111 licensed kindergartens, 62 primary schools, 34 middle schools, 16 high schools, 7 vocational schools, and 3 higher-educational level colleges and universities. Zhoushan High School, Dinghai First High School, Putuo High School, Daishan High School, and Shengsi High School are province level key public high schools. Putuo No.2 Middle School is one of the noted Middle Schools in the Putuo District. Nanhai Experimental School, located at Lincheng Sub-District of Dinghai and established in 2001, is a major private school. Zhejiang Ocean University and Zhejiang University (Zhoushan Campus) are two well-known universities in the city.