Kaifeng Tourist Attractions
Excavations have proved that Kaifeng already existed at the time of the Shang dynasty (16th-11th C BC). In addition remains of a Neolithic settlement have been found in the surrounding area.
In the Spring and Autumn Periods (770-476 BC) the settlement was a border post of the Zheng kingdom and the ruler Zheng Zhuanggong established a grain store here. From then on Kaigfeng's importance grew significantly. Under the Wei rulers (220-280) it became capital for the first time and gained this status again in the period of the Five Dynasties (907-960). Kaifeng's golden period, however, was under the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), when it was capital for a period of 167 years and developed into a large city with a population of about one million. The extension of the canal system brought a further economic upswing. It has also been reliably attested that Kaifeng possessed a substantial Jewish community. The famous picture scroll of this period, ''The Qingming Banquet by the River'' (Qingming Shanghe Tu; today in the Imperial Palace in Beijing) illustrates the wealth and opulence of this epoch. With the collapse of the Song dynasty the town suffered severe damage and declined in importance. Around the middle of the 17th C it suffered a number of appalling floods from the Huanghe. In 1644 the town's dikes were opened as a defensive measure against invading Manchurians and as a result 300,000 people lost their lives. For this reason there are only very few architectural monuments surviving from the Song period. Today silk and embroidery provide an important source of income for Kaifeng.
Temple of the Chancellor
The Temple of the Chancellor (Xiangguo Si) in the city center was built in 555 and for centuries was a renowned Buddhist center. It was destroyed on several occasions - including the floods of 1644 - and then rebuilt, the last time in 1766. It was given its present name by a chancellor of the Tang era (618-907) who had made an outstanding contribution to restoration work on the building.
Octagonal Ceramic Palace
The most important building on the Temple of the Chancellor site is the Octagonal Ceramic Palace (Baijiao Liulidian), the contents of which include a 7m/23ft high Guanyin statue. The gilded likeness of the goddess, with her four faces, 1000 arms and 1000 eyes, was created out of a single piece of Ginkgo wood. In the neighboring bell-tower hangs an enormous 4m/13ft high bronze bell, weighing over 5 tons and dating from the Qing period (1644-1911).
The Iron Pagoda (Tieta), which dates from 1049, is located in the northeast of the city, in the center of the park of the same name. Owing to the rust-brown ceramic tiles with which it is covered, one could be forgiven for thinking it is made of iron - hence its name. The ascent to the top of the 55m/180ft high 13-story pagoda is well worthwhile, rewarding the visitor with a beautiful view over Kaifeng and the surrounding area.
Old Town Center
In the old center of Kaifeng a 400m/1200ft long street with 36 buildings in the Song style has been reconstructed, with products and services characteristic of the period on sale.The most interesting feature is the reproduction of the old Fan restaurant, mentioned in many old classical works. In one of these works the story is told of how the Song Emperor Huizong used to leave his palace in unobtrusive apparel and come to the restaurant, where he would spend many a merry evening in the company of the famous actress Li Shishi, later to become his favorite concubine.Between the streets of Beitu Jie and Nanjiaojing there are still traces of the old Jewish quarter, where from the 12th C onwards the largest Jewish community in China lived.
The Dragon Pavilion (Longting), situated 1.5km/1mi to the north of the Temple of the Chancellor in the Dragon Park, was built in 1692 on the site of a Ming palace which had been destroyed in the floods of 1644. The staircase leading to the pavilion is decorated with a dragon motif, while inside there is a stone bench, likewise ornamented with dragons.
Terrace of King Yu (Music Terrace)
The Terrace of King Yu (Yuwangtai) lies in a park of the same name in the southeast of the city, south of the railroad line and 3km/2mi from the Temple of the Chancellor. According to tradition the legendary Da Yu stayed here while he was subduing the Huanghe. On the terrace stands the Temple of King Yu (Yuwang Miao). To the south there is a wooden arch on which hangs a small plaque with the words ''Ancient Terrace of the Musician''. Another legend has it that the famous musician Shi Kuang gave concerts here in the Spring and Autumn Periods (770-476 BC). For this reason the terrace is also known as the Music Terrace (Guchui Tai).One of the halls is dedicated to famous poets of the Tang era (618-907) who composed verses here, such as Du Fu and Li Bai.
The hexagonal Pagoda Pota, formerly part of a temple from the Northern Song period (960-1127), is situated to the west of the Terrace of King Yu. It originally consisted of six stories, of which only three survived the partial destruction of the building in the 14th C.