Kaifeng - The Forgotten Ancient Capital

kaifenglm04.jpg - 11329 Bytes Kaifeng is perhaps the least visited of China's ancient capitals. A walled city 10 kms south of the Yellow River, Kaifeng has been capital of seven dynasties. Kaifeng is famous for the treasures within its city wall as well as its Jewish community that Kaifeng had nourished for many centuries.
Kaifeng City Ratings
** The following ratings are based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.
History(8) Art(6) Local Culture/Unique Tour(7)
Nature/Scenic(4) Food/Shopping(3) Night Life(3)
Religion(9) Adventure/Sports(5) Reasonable Cost(9)
Recommended Days of Stay: 1

Quick Facts
Population - 620,000
When to go
Tourist Season - May through October
Coldest Months - January with temperature at -9C
Hottest Months - July with temperature at 38C
Annual Precipitation - 600 mm (Mainly in July and August)
Getting In and Out
By Air - The closest airport to Kaifeng is the Zhengzhou airport 90 miles away.
By Bus - Kaifeng is on Natioanl highway 106 and Highway 310.


Kaifeng has a history of 2,600 years, culminating in a 168-year reign that spanned the magnificent Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). The artistic account of Kaifeng's splendor is borne out by a wonder of painting by Zhang Zeduan of the Northern Song, "Going Up the River at the Qing Ming Festival". It is now in the Palace Museum collection in Beijing.

Kaifeng's history was also a history of flooding. Between 1194 and 1948, there are 120 recorded Yellow River floods due to dike breaking. The two worst floods were both caused by men. One in 1642 when Ming forces destroyed an embankment and completely inundated the city killing 372,000 people. The other was caused by the Nationalists in order to stop the Japanese's advancement, killing 840,000 people. Years of building and adding to the river bed has raised the river 10 meters higher than ground level.

Tie Ta (The Iron Pagoda) * *
Erected in 1049, the Iron Pagoda is actually constructed of brick and covered in glazed tiles that give it a dark metallic sheen. It is approximately 175 feet tall. From the top of the tower, you can have a wide view of the walled city.

Local Culture/Unique Tour
The Lost Jewish Community * * *
Jewish first arrived here about 2,000 years ago, through the Silk Road from Persia. During Song Dynasty, more Jewish merchants and migrants arrived. They even built a synagogue in 1163. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times by flood and fire. The last synagogue was destroyed between 1850 and 1866. The Kaifeng Museum still has a top floor with a reproduction of a seventh century drawing of the synagogue, and steles dated 1469, 1512, and 1679 describing the history of the community, etc.

The local Great East Mosque also contains a few original artifacts from the synagogue.

Today, there are still about 200 Jews living in Kaifeng although they don't speak Hebrew or practice Jewish tradition any more.

Temple Market * * *
Since Song Dynasty, the area close to Xiangguo Temple has been a site for an open market. This tradition continues until today.

Food/ Shopping
Drum Tower Night Market
The only descent food in Kaifeng is at the Drum Tower Night Market which offers a variety of street flavor for the daring, including various shish kebabs prepared on the spot over open fires.

Xiangguo Temple * * * *
Founded in 555, this is one of China's best-known temples. The current site, however, was rebuilt during Qing Dynasty. Its most famous statue is a gilded, four-sided Guanyin of 1000 eyes and 1000 arms, carved from a single piece of gingko wood. The two-story sutra library is famous for its rich collection.

Yanqingguan Taoist Temple * * * *
The temple only gained fame because it was inhabited by a Taoist master, Wang Chongyang, founder of the Quanzhen school which sought to synthesize the theories of 'Laozi', the Confucian classic of filial piety and Buddhist belief.
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