The city was first constructed as early as 1283 AD during the Yuan Dynasty. It was originally called Shunyuan, meaning obeying the Yuan (the Mongol rulers).
Originally the area was populated by non-Chinese. The Sui Dynasty (AD 581–618) had a commandery there, and the Tang dynasty (618–907) a prefecture. They were, however, no more than military outposts, and it was not until the Yuan (Mongol) invasion of southwest China in 1279 that the area was made the seat of an army and a "pacification office." Chinese settlement in the area also began at that time, and, under the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, the town became the seat of a superior prefecture named Guiyang.
Guìyáng is the capital of Guizhou province located in Southwest China. It is situated in the centre of the province, on the east of the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau, and on the north bank of the Nanming River, a branch of the Wu River. The city has an elevation of about 1,100 meters and covers an area of approximately 8,000 square kilometers. Its population is approximately 4,500,000 of which approximately 3,000,000 live in the built up area made of 7 urban districts.
Guiyang is the economic and commercial hub of Guizhou Province and is the center for retail and wholesale. Foreign and major domestic organisations such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, RT-Mart, Beijing Hualian, Parkson, and Xingli Group, Gome and Suning operate in Guiyang.
Locally Guiyang was an important administrative and commercial center with two distinct merchant communities, consisting of the Sichuanese, who lived in the "new" northern part of the city, and those from Hunan, Guangdong, and Guangxi province, who lived in the "old" southern part. Nevertheless, until the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), Guiyang was no more than the capital of one of China's least-developed provinces. As elsewhere in the southwest, considerable economic progress was made under the special circumstances of wartime. Road transport infrastructure with Kunming in Yunnan province and with Chongqing in Sichuan (China's wartime provisional capital) and into Hunan were established. Work was begun on a railway from Liuzhou in Guangxi, and after 1949 this development was accelerated. Guiyang has subsequently become a major provincial city and industrial base. In 1959 the rail network in Guangxi was completed, allowing seamless connection from Guizhou to Chongqing to the north, to Kunming to the west, and Changsha to the east.