Rizhao boasts of a rich historical base dating back to 3500 BC to 2000 BC. The ancient tribe of Dongyi ruled Rizhao during the Xia and Shang dynasty.
In 1687, the town was built by Song King Yuanyou and named Rizhou "land where the rising sun comes first." In 1184 it was under the jurisdiction of Juzhou and Qingzhou in the Ming Dynasty and Yizhou in the Qing Dynasty.
In 1928 the city came under the Shandong province, and in March 1940 Anti-Japanese Democratic government of Rizhao County was formed.
After the formation of the People's Republic of China, the government transferred serially from Yishui, Jiaozhou to Linyi administrative offices.
In March 1958, it was upgraded to a city level, and in December 1992, it owned two counties and a district.