As early as the Warring States Period the area we now call Hohhot was inhabited. The city of Yunzhong was founded here at this time by the Zhao Kingdom: relics of the Zhao Great Wall they built to keep out invades can still be seen in Tuoketuo County to the southwest of Hohhot.

When Qin Shi Huang unified China and became the First Emperor of China, establishing the Qin Dynasty, the area was named Yunzhong County. In the Western Han Dynasty, Emperor Wu dedicated many cities to military usage, one of which was the current city of Hohhot. Relics of this time can be found in the eastern suburbs of Hohhot.

China briefly lost control of the entire Hohhot region to the Turkik, during the Sui and Tang dynasties, but the invaders were driven out. In 1572, the Mongol leader Altan Khan established a walled city in the area, which we now recognize as the section of Hohhot called the Old City. He consolidated his power in this new city, ordering lamaseries (the Dazhao and Xiaozhao temples) to be built, and the area became a central city for Buddhism in northern China. At this point, Hohhot's primary function changed from that of a military encampment to that of an economic and social hub.

As power shifted once again, the Mongols were driven out of Hohhot by the Manchus, who took control of the area in the transition between the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Manchus built a new city in 1736, 2 kilometers northeast of the old city, which they called "Suiyuan” which is now referred to as the ''New City''. These ''twin cities'' were a common feature of the Manchu rule and although some commerce did flow between the two settlements, they remained separate entities for a long time.

In 1914, the cities were politically integrated, and are slowly becoming socially integrated as the 2 kilometers that separates them has gradually been built up since 1949. Both the ''New City'' walls and the ''Old City'' north gate have been torn down to accommodate this development. In 1954, Guisui was changed to Hohhot and the city was made the capital of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

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