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The third city in our Henan series is the city of Kaifeng. Located by the southern bank of the Yellow River, Kaifeng was once the world’s most populous city at the beginning of the second millennium C.E. It was China’s capital during the Northern Song dynasty (from 960-1127) and again from 1013-1127. City gates, parks and some unique architecture make Kaifeng a noteworthy stop on any trip to China.
Kaifeng is home to the oldest Jewish population in China, also known as the Kaifeng Jews. It is estimated that about 100 families of Jewish ancestry still remain in Kaifeng. While there was a significant drop in the population and practices of the Jewish customs after the city’s synagogue was destroyed in the 1960’s, there’s been a recent interest among many members to recapture their roots and ancestry.
The city is also known for its mosques; a unique aspect of some of the mosques in Kaifeng is that they’re women-only. The most notable one is located in the Wangjia Hutong and dates back to 1820 and is still in use today.
WHAT TO SEE
Iron Tower Park
One of the highlights of Kaifeng, the park is located in the north east of the city. The Iron Tower was first built in 982 in the Song Dynasty. It was made with a timber frame and a hundred years following it’s original construction, the pagoda’s surface was covered with iron-coloured tiles, giving it the name Iron Tower Pagoda. Visible on the pagoda are carvings of Buddhas, flowers and various human figures and animals which represent the work and beliefs of the people during the Song Dynasty.
Millennium City Park
This park was built based on the famous Qingming Festival painting, which depicts Kaifeng during it’s glory days. Inside the park there are numerous daily performances including acrobats and a fire-breathing show. The park also offers a variety of local food stalls and tea houses.
Dragon Pavilion Park
This park is located on the grounds of the six dynasties. The Dragon Pavilion was originally the site of the royal palace during the Northern Song Dynasty.
Henan’s food stalls are frequented and popular with tourists and locals alike. Famous delicacies of Kaifeng include the steaming pie, steamed dumplings and five-spice bread. Barbeque of various vegetables and meat are also very popular.
One of the highest rated flower festivals in China is held every October in Kaifeng. The chrysanthemum flower is the famous flower of Kaifeng and has grown there for hundreds of years.
Visiting Kaifeng is a possible day-trip from central Zhengzhou. If you are visiting in October plan to go on a weekday during the Festival to avoid the weekend crowds. Kaifeng is accessible by train from Luoyang and Zhengzhou. It also connects to the major cities in the neighbouring provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi and Anhui.