Zhuhai may feel like a new city, but the area has been inhabited for four or five thousand years, since the Neolithic Age. The settlement remained small, but began to make its mark between the Han and Tang dynasties, when the island ports became useful stopovers on the ''Maritime Silk Road'' of China. It was during this time, in the Tang Dynasty, when the town was officially established, and named Xiangshan, which later came to include the four coastal counties of Nanhai, Panyu, Xinhui and Dongguan during the Song Dynasty . However, in spite of its change in status, and its brief use as a base for Imperial forces during the Opium Wars, it essentially remained a group of little fishing villages right up until the 1979 when its name was changed to Zhuhai City and the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone was founded. The city's designation as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) secured foreign investment that could normally not be given to cities within China. It is now one of the fastest growing cities in China. As the city's economy swelled, so did its population which grew tenfold in the period between 1980 and 2000 and has now risen to approximately 1,460,000.
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