During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) Marco Polo, famous European traveller and explorer from Venice, visited Hangzhou. He was overwhelmed and referred to the city as "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world." "The number and wealth of the merchants, and the amount of goods that passed through their hands, was so enormous that no man could form a just estimate thereof."
One of the many benefits from the visit of Marco Polo was that westerners now discovered silk, which since then has been ever so appreciated. "The Marco Polo statue"
The city of Hangzhou has not forgotten the first westerner that visited Hangzhou and introduced Hangzhou to the Europeans. Therefore Marco Polo has been honoured with a statue near the West Lake.
"…most beautiful and magnificent city in the world"
There is a Chinese proverb: "Shang you tian tang, xia you su hang" which in English means "up there is heaven, down here is Suzhou and Hangzhou". Marco Polo apparently did not see that much difference when he called Hangzhou "the City of Heaven, and classified it as “the most beautiful and magnificent in the world."
Marco Polo was enormously fascinated by its grandeur of the Chinese culture and technology and he described all marvellous things he saw in his book "Il Milione" ("The travels of Marco Polo” in English). In the beginning however, few believed in what he was telling, since in 13th century China’s civilisation was much more advanced than the European one.
The problem in the 14th century was that the Chinese were centuries ahead in many sciences which the Western world could
not or wanted to beleive.