Zhangjiajie has a very long history. The city itself was previously named Dayong, and has a recorded history dating back to 221 BC. Humans lived here along both banks of the Lishui River (the mother river in Zhangjiajie), now within the boundaries of Zhanagjiajie City, very early during the Stone Age. Human settlement in this region dates back 100,000 years. The below is a Timeline of Zhangjiajie History:
○ During the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600 BC - 256 BC), Zhangjiajie was under the Jingchu State's jurisdiction.
○ During the Spring & Autumn and the Warring States Periods (770 BC - 221 BC), Zhangjiajie was under the Chu State's jurisdiction.
○ In 221, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC) unified the country and established the first centralized feudal state in Chinese history. He established the administrative system of Jun (commandery) and Xian (county). Qinzhong Jun (Qinzhong Commandery) was set in the basin of Lishui River and Yuanjiang River. It was known as the first administrative area in Hunan Province in Chinese history. The Qin Dynasty has 36 Juns (prefectures), and today's Zhangjiajie City and its 2 districts (Yongding District and Wuling District) and 2 counties (Sangzhi County and Cili County) were under Cigu County's jurisdiction of Qinzhong Jun.
In 202, namely, the fifth year of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 8 A.D), Liu Bang, the first emperor of the dynasty changed Qinzhong Jun as Wuling Jun. And Cigu County was parted as Chanling and Chong counties. The 2 districts (Yongding District and Wuling District) and Sangzhi County of today's Zhangjiajie were administrated by Chong County.
○ During the Tree Kingdoms (220 A.D - 280 A.D), in the 6th years (263 A.D) of the reign of Wu State's Emperor Sunxiu, the emperor renamed the Songliang Mountain as Tianmen Mountain for a Big Cave was seen in the mountain. He considered this is a good auspice for his country, hence the name. At the same time, he changed Wuling Jun as Tianmen Jun.
During the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 A.D), the country added Dao (circuit, the Dao of the Tang Dynasty was probably the province of the present. The Tang Dynasty set 10 Daos. During the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China, the country established Dao below province) on top. In 621, the first emperor of the dynasty, Li Yuan ordered to establish Li Zhou（Li Prefecture, it was under Shannan Dao's jurisdiction) to administrate Liyang Jun (Liyang Commandery). And Liyang Jun controlled six counties, including Cili County and Chongyi County (the present Yongding District, Wulingyuan District and Sangzhi County).
○ During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960 A.D), Zhangjiajie was under the Chu State's jurisdiction.
During the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 A.D), the country added Lu (road) on top, maintaining a 4-tier system (Lu, Fu, Zhou and Jun) that lasted through the dynasty. In 963, the first emperor of the dynasty, Zhao Kuang Yin ordered put the whole area of Zhangjiajie under Liyang Ju's jurisdiction, and named it Cili County.
○ During the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368 A.D), the country set 11 provinces. In 1277, Kublai Khan ordered to set Lizhou Lu General Governing Office and had it administrate 4 counties, including Cili County (the whole area of present Zhangjiajie). The emperor set the Maogang High Pacification Commissioner's Office as the local government office at Maogang in present Yongding District, Zhangjiajie.
○ During the second year of the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644 A.D), the emperor of the dynasty lowered Cili Zhou (Cili Prefecture) as a county, and renamed it as Dayong County. It was put under Li Zhou's jurisdiction (Lizhou: Li Prefecture).
○ During the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912), Li Zhou became a prefecture directly under the jurisdiction of the central government. It had jurisdiction over Anxiang, Simen, Anfu and Cili counties. (The present Yongding District, Wulingyuan District, Cili County and Sangzhi County were under Anfu County's jurisdiction at that time)
○ In 1916, Hunan Povince repealed Wuling Dao and incorporated Dayong, Sangzhi and Cili counties in Chenyuan Dao. Hunan Province adjusted its 10 Administrative Superintendence Districts in the year. Dayong and Sangzhi counties were administrated by the 4th Administrative Superintendence District. The office of the Commissioners was set in Changde.
○ In 1949, Zhangjiajie was liberated. Cili County then was incorporated in Changde Special Administrative Area till 1988.
○ From October 16 of 1949 to Auguest of 1952, Dayong and Sangzhi counties were under Yongshun Special Administrative Area's jurisdiction. They were then put under the administration of Xiangxi Miao Autonomous Area and Xiangxi Tujia-Miao Autonomous Prefecture respectively.
○ In 1985, Dayong County was repealled and changed to the county-level Dayong City.
○ In 1988, Dayong City was changed to a prefecture-level city. Yongding District and Wulingyuan District were established. Cili County of Changde City and Sangzhi County of Xiangxi Tujia-Miao Autonomous Prefecture were incorporated in Dayong City.
○ In 1994, the new name of Zhangjiajie City was approved by the State Council of China, after the National Forest Park in the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area in order to give it more prominence and after this site had been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
○ In 1999, World Aerobatics Competition was held in Tianmen Mountain. The activity gave rising to sensational reactions in the world. There were 800 million audiences watching the live telecast.Zhangjiajie first became known to the global tourists.
○ In 2006, the Russian Air Force's stunt fly show in Tianmen Mountain gave the world a big hit. Zhangjiajie was well known worldwide and many tourists flock to the city.
○ In 2010, Zhangjiajie met its historical tourist peak after the film Avatar was premiered in London on December 10, 2009.