With a 3,500-year-long history, Wuhan is one of the most ancient and civilized Metropolitan Cities in China, more ancient than Beijing, Xi'an and Nanjing. During the Han Dynasty, Hanyang became a fairly busy port. In the 3rd century AD one of the most famous battles in Chinese history and a central event in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms—the Battle of Red Cliffs—took place in the vicinity of the cliffs near Wuhan. Around that time, walls were built to protect Hanyang (AD 206) and Wuchang (AD 223). The latter event marks the foundation of Wuhan. In AD 223, the Yellow Crane Tower was constructed on the Wuchang side of the Yangtze River. Cui Hao, a celebrated poet of Tang Dynasty, visited the building in the early 8th century; his poem made the building the most celebrated building in southern China. The city has long been renowned as a center for the arts (especially poetry) and for intellectual studies. Under the Mongol rulers (Yuan Dynasty), Wuchang was promoted to the status of provincial capital, and by the dawn of the 18th century, Hankou had become one of China's top four most important towns of trade.
Wuhan Custom House, opened in 1862
In the late 19th century railroads were extended on a north-south axis through the city, making Wuhan an important transshipment point between rail and river traffic. Also during this time period foreign powers extracted mercantile concessions, with the riverfront of Hankou being divided up into various foreign controlled merchant districts. These districts contained trading firm offices, warehouses, and docking facilities.
In 1911, Sun Yat-sen's followers launched the Wuchang Uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China. Wuhan was the capital of a leftist Kuomintang government led by Wang Jingwei, in opposition to Chiang Kai-shek during the 1920s.
In 1938, Wuhan and the surrounding region was the site of the