Shaoxing ([ʂâuɕíŋ]; Chinese: 绍兴) is a prefecture-level city on the southern shore of Hangzhou Bay in eastern Zhejiang province, China. It was formerly known as Kuaiji and Shanyin and abbreviated in Chinese as 越 (Yuè) from the area's former inhabitants. Located on the south bank of the Qiantang River estuary, it borders Ningbo to the east, Taizhou to the southeast, Jinhua to the southwest, and Hangzhou to the west. As of 2010, its population was 4,912,339 inhabitants. Among which, 1,914,683 (Keqiao and Yuecheng districts) lived in the built-up metropolitan area of Hangzhou-Shaoxing, with a total of 8,156,154 inhabitants.
Notable residents of Shaoxing include Wang Xizhi, the parents of Zhou Enlai, Lu Xun, and Cai Yuanpei. It is also noted for Shaoxing wine, meigan cai, and stinky tofu, and was recently featured on A Bite of China. Its local variety of Chinese opera sung in the local dialect and known as Yue or Shaoxing opera is second in popularity only to Peking opera. In 2010, Shaoxing celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the city.
Economically, the city's driven by manufacturing of textiles, electronics, and energy-efficient lighting. Zhejiang has the fifth highest per capita GDP in the nation, with the city itself at 32nd nationally by GDP per capita.
Modern-day Shaoxing lies north of the Kuaiji Mountains, which were an important center of the semi-nomadic people of Yue during ancient China's Spring and Autumn period. Chinese legend connected them with events in the life of Yu the Great, the founder of the Xia. Around the early 5th century BC, the time of Yue's famous king Goujian, his people began establishing permanent centers in the alluvial plain north of the hills. Following his freedom from captivity in Wu, Goujian commissioned his advisor Fan Li to erect a major triangular fortification in the area of present-day Shaoxing's Yuecheng District. Following Yue's conquest of Wu, though, its royal court was removed to its former rival's capital (present-day Suzhou) until its own conquest by Chu in 334 BC.
Following the area's conquest in 222 BC, the Qin Empire's Kuaiji Commandery was also established in Wu (which then took the name "Kuaiji" from this role) but the First Emperor visited the town in the last year of his reign (210 BC), ascending Mount Kuaiji (present-day Mount Xianglu) and sacrificing to the spirit of Yu. The commemorative stele he erected is now lost but was visited by Sima Qian during his 1st-century BC pilgrimage of China's historical sites and was preserved in his Records of the Grand Historian.By the time of the Later Han, the lands between the Yangtze and Hangzhou Bay received their own commanderies and administration of Kuaiji—then stretching along the south shore of the bay from Qiantang (present-day Hangzhou) to the East China Sea. The area's capital in present-day Yuecheng was then known as Kuaiji until the 12th century, when it was renamed Shaoxing. The present site of Yu's mausoleum dates to the 6th-century Southern Dynasties period.
Ming and Qing Dynasties
Under the Ming and Qing dynasties, the area was organized as a prefecture containing the following eight counties: urban Kuaiji and Shanyin and rural Yuyao, Zhuji, Xiaoshan, Shangyu, Xinchang, and Cheng (or Sheng). From the later Ming through the Qing, Shaoxing was famous (or notorious) for its network of native sons throughout the Chinese government bureaucracy, cooperating out of native-place loyalty. In addition to the substantial number of Shaoxing natives who succeeded in becoming officials via the regular civil-service examination route, this vertical Shaoxing clique also included county-level jail wardens, plus unofficial legal specialists (muyou) working privately for officials at the county, prefectural, and provincial levels, plus clerks working in Beijing's Six Boards (central administrative offices), especially the Boards of Revenue and Punishment. The legal experts were also known as Shaoxing shiye (Shaoxing masters), and they were indispensable advisers to the local and regional officials who employed them, since their knowledge of the detailed Qing legal code permitted the officials, whose education was in the Confucian Classics, to competently perform one of their major functions, that of judging local civil and criminal cases. Coming from the same gentry social class as the officials, the legal experts were expected to adhere to the ethical dictum enunciated by Wang Huizu, Shaoxing's most famous muyou: "If not in accord, then leave" (Bu he ze qu).
People's Republic of China
Under the Republic of China during the early 20th century, the prefecture was abolished and the name Shaoxing was applied to a new county comprising the former Shanyin and Kuaiji. Currently, Shaoxing is a municipality with a somewhat smaller land area than its Ming-Qing namesake prefecture, having lost Xiaoshan county to Hangzhou on the west and Yuyao county to Ningbo on the east.