The site on which the modern city of Fuzhou now sits has been continually occupied since the first settlement was founded here over 2000 years ago in 202 BC when the Fujian region was known as Minyue. Liu Bang, the founding Emperor of the Han Dynasty gave the local king of Minyue permission to establish his capital which he named Ye (''the Beautiful'') on this site and erected the first city walls. It has survived thousands of years of wars and revolution to emerge intact as a major coastal port and centre for shipbuilding.

Since its earliest days, Fuzhou port was an important hub for foreign traders. This led to an influx of affluent merchants during the Jin and Tang Dynasties, at which point it started to be known by its current name of Fuzhou, which means ''Prosperous'' or ''Fortunate'' City, though it took a long time for this to be the city's only name. Waves of immigrants arrived as a response to the slow collapse of the Tang Dynasty, which began around 892. When the Tang dynasty finally did fall, the short-lived Min Dynasty emerged as the new ruling power, claiming Fuzhou as its capital and naming it Changle. This brief period in the spotlight made its mark on Fuzhou: the river which runs through is called the Min and even now, Min is still used as an alternative name for the Fujian Province.

Fuzhou earned the name ''San Shan'' (three Mountains) during the Five Dynasty Period when the King of Min expanded the city territory to include Ping Mountain, Wu Mountain and Yu Mountain. The city's link with nature was further strengthened during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) when the city official Zhang Boyu began a program encouraging residents to grow banyan trees around the city. These flowering fig trees are now an important symbol and source of pride for the whole city.

The city began to grow and become prosperous. During the Southern Song Dynasty celebrated scholars arrived in Fuzhou to live and work including Zhu Xi a philosopher second only in the Chinese conscious to Confucius, and Xin Qiji the revered composer of Ci Poetry. Marco Polo also lived here during his legendary tour around China, when he witnessed the emergence of Fuzhou as an important port.

The Hualin Temple was built sometime before the end of the Song Dynasty. It was thought to have been built toward the end of this period as documentation had s been unearthed dating it to 964 AD. However, carbon-dating has revised this figure and it is now thought to be the oldest surviving wooden structure in the whole of China after it was dated to the 4th or 5th century. Marco Polo is supposed to have passed through Fuzhou at the end of the 13th century. He described it as a great center of international commerce with special trade links to India. He also noted the presence of a large Christian community there, with roots going back several hundred years. These were possibly descendants of Nestorian Christians, a Syrian sect that had come to China via the Silk Road.

The importance of Fuzhou as a port remained constant. Between 1405 and 1433, Fuzhou was used as the departing point for seven of the Ming Navy Fleet's journeys across the Indian Ocean. The fleet landed on the east coast of Africa on one of these journeys, during which they erected a stele dedicated to Matsu, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea. It was during this period that Fuzhou went from being a commercial to a military port. By the end of the First Opium War, Fuzhou had grown in importance enough to be named on the Treaty of Nanjing as one of the first five Chinese ports to be reopened in 1842.

The revolution of 1911 left Fuzhou with thankfully few scars. An uprising began on November 8, which ended the next day after a street battle and the surrender of the Manchu army. In 1940, the Japanese army bombed Fuzhou, and many civilians left the city. The Japanese soon took the city until 1945, when they surrendered completely to the PRC.

In recent years, the city has been considerably influenced by cultures outside of China having been named as one of the 14 coastal cities which the State Council of PRC intends to open up further to the outside world.

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