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Trip Review for China

Kaifeng

Situated in the center by east of Henan Province, Kaifeng is the capital city of seven dynasties featuring Song culture, and a top tourism city in China, with an area of 6,247 sq km and a population of 5.07 million.

Kaifeng has a history of 2,700 years or so. Chinese tales place the capital of Fu Xi, the first of the legendary emperors in the area. Archaeological evidence of human occupation of the site dates back to the Neolithic period and artifacts have been found from the Shang dynasty, 16th-11th centuries BC. In the feudal Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) the ruler of the Zheng kingdom established a border post and a grain storate facility here. During the Warring States period, a time when the feudal lords were jockeying for control, the state of Wei (220-265 BC) founded their capital here, calling it Daliang. This capital was mostly destroyed by the Qin, though what was left continued to be used as a market town. In 781 AD, the Tang built a small walled fort here that they named Bian.

It was in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 AD) when Bianzhou, alternately called Bianlang or Bianjing, rose to its greatest prominence. Kaifeng was also referred to as Dongjing, which is a generic sort of name for Eastern Capital, something which may have referred more to the imperial city enclosure than to the city as a whole. For 167 years the city prospered as the main capital of the Northern Song. During this time, the Grand Canal was expanded which allowed commerce to flourish.

The Khitan Liao had come down from the northern steppes to Kaifeng in 946, but retreated in the face of military opposition. Border conflicts with the Liao continued throughout the early Northern Song period and after a series of military defeats, the two parties negotiated the Shanyuan Treaty in 1005. The terms obligated the Song to pay a yearly tribute to the Liao in return for stability on their northern borders.

The Song broke this treaty in 1125 when they encouraged the Jurchens of the Jin dynasty in Manchuria to attack the Liao. The Liao dynasty was destroyed in 1125 by the Jurchens, but the Jurchens then turned on the Song. When the Song dynasty fell to these northern invaders in 1127, the remnants of the Song court fled south to Hangzhou, and were then known as the Southern Song dynasty. Kaifeng was greatly damaged in this final conflict and once again became a rural market town.

During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) Kaifeng was used as a provincial capital. In the early 17th century, Kaifeng was inundated by a series of floods from the Yellow River, and in 1644, the magistrates opened the gates to the dikes in an attempt to save the city from the invading peasant rabble led by Li Zicheng, a move which resulted in the deaths of 300,000 people, as well as the destruction of much of the remaining architecture from the Song period. Officialdom abandoned Kaifeng once again until the Qing emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) rebuilt the city. He began flood control measures along the Yellow River and repaired the Grand Canal. The Yellow River flooded again in 1841, severely damaging Kaifeng, but the city was again rebuilt in 1843. This late reconstruction defines modern-day Kaifeng.

The Riverside Scene at the Qingming Festival, a painting drawn by Zhang Zeduan of the Song Dynasty, vividly displays the prosperity of Kaifeng.

Now Kaifeng has 213 scenic and historical interest sites, such as the Dragon Pavilion, Iron Pagoda, Xiangguo Temple, King Yu Terrace, Shanxi-Shaanxi-Gansu Guild Hall and Zhuxian Town, in addition to a group of newly built tourist attractions, such as The Riverside Scene at the Qingming Festival, Imperial Street of the Song Capital, Kaifeng Government Office, Lord Bao Temple, Tianbo Yang Mansion and Academic Garden. In autumn every year, all the major parks in Kaifeng hold the chrysanthemum fairs, adding radiance and beauty to the ancient city of Kaifeng.

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