The history of Ningbo is closely related to the sea and the city. About 7,000 years ago, the people of the Hemudu Culture built a fishing village, from which present-day Ningbo evolved.
The recorded history of Ningbo can be dated back to the Xia Dynasty (2000—1600 BC), where the first written historical record of the name of the city appears. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770—476 BC) in Chinese history, Ningbo was part of the kingdom of Yue, and later, when the kingdom of Yue was destroyed by the kingdom of Chu, Ningbo became part of that kingdom.
In the year 222 BC in the Qin Dynasty, Ningbo belonged to the Qin after the Qin's conquery of the kingdom of Chu. The seat of the town was several miles to the east of today's city proper.
During the Han Dynasty, the Three Kingdoms’ Period and the Wei and Jin dynasties, while the name of the city was slightly changed, the location remained unchanged. It was in 621 AD, or during the Tang Dynasty that the city proper moved to where now the three rivers meet. In 627, the whole nation was divided into ten provinces, and the county of Maoxian, or Ningbo, belonged to that of Jiangnan. It was in the Tang Dynasty that the city received the name of Mingzhou.
During the Tang, Song, Yuan and Qing dynasties, the location of the city changed from place to place and the governing area also changed acccordingly. In 1658 in the Qing Dynasty Ningbo Taidao was established, controlling the five counties of Yin, Cixi, Zhenhai, Fenghua and Xiangshan.
Ningbo is also called "Yong", after the Yongjiang River.
In 1987 Ningbo was listed as one of the cities specifically designated in the State Plan, and in 1994 it was deemed a quasi provincial-level city.