Wenzhou, also known as Yongjia (or Yung-chia 永嘉) has a history which goes back to about 2000 BC, when it became known for its pottery production. In the 2nd century BC it was called the Kingdom of Dong'ou. Under the Tang Dynasty, it was promoted to prefecture status and given its current name in 675 AD. The name Wenzhou was formed from the nearby Wenqiao Mountains (Chinese: 温峤岭) and the addition of the -zhou "prefecture" suffix.
Throughout its history, Wenzhou's traditional economic role has been as a port giving access to the mountainous interior of southern Zhejiang Province. In 1876 Wenzhou was opened to the foreign tea trade, but no foreign settlement was ever established there. Between 1937 and 1942, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Wenzhou achieved importance as one of the few ports still under Chinese control. It declined in the later years of the war, but began to recover after coastal trade along the Zhejiang coast was re-established in 1955.