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Kaifeng -- Ancient Capital

The city of Kaifeng is one ht East Henan Plain south of the Yellow River. During the Spring and Autumn Period, the place became the fief of Duke Zaung (757-701 B.C.) of the State of Zheng, who started to build a city and named it Kaifeng, meaning "opening up new territory." It was also called Bianliang after the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.).

Kaifeng served as capital for seven feudalist dynasties in Chinese history. Ad one of the "six great capitals" of China, together with Beijing, Xi' an, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Hangzhou, it used to be a very prosperous city, especially during the Northern Song Dynasty (A.D. 960-1127). The grandeur and prosperity of Kaifeng is vividly presented in a classical painting, "River Scene at Qingming Festival," by the well-known artist Zhang Zeduan of the Northern Song Dynasty.

However, the former splendor of Kaifeng was gradually diminished by wars and Yellow River floods. Today, many cultural relics and ruins remain, and part of the city is being reconstructed to resemble old Kaifeng as it looked like in the Song Dynasty. When the work is finished, the historic old city will become an important stop on the tourist's itinerary.

As an old cultural center, Kaifeng is well known for its silk products and embroidery.

King Yu's Terrace (Yuwangtai)

This terrace in southeast Kaifeng is also known as Music Terrace in memory of a blind musician, Shi Kuang, who is said to have played music here 2,600 years ago.

During the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368 -1644), Kaifeng was repeatedly flooded when the Yellow River overflowed its banks. To commemorate King Yu, the legendary leader of the Xia Dynasty (c. twenty-second-seventeenth centuries), who devoted his wife to the taming of the flood, the people renamed the place King Yu's Terrace and erected a bronze statue of King Yu on the spot.

Major buildings on King Yu's Terrace include the King's Library (Yushulou), Temple of Three Saints (Sanxiansi), King Yu's Temple, and the Water Virtue Temple (Shuidesi). King Yu's Temple is said to have housed a statue of King Yu and some of his tools used in flood control. The Temple of Three Saints was built in memory of the three great poets of the Tang Dynasty, Li bai, Du Fu, and Gao Shi, who cane here to compose poems while drinking wine in the spring of 744. At the back of the temple, there is a pavilion which houses a tablet bearing inscriptions of Emperor Qian Long (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty written on one of his inspection tours.

Prime Minister's Tempel (Xiangguosi)

One of the most famous temples of China stands in the center of Kaifeng. Built in 555 during the Northern QI Dynasty (550-577), it has a history of over 1,400 years. It was reconstructed and enlarged during the Tand and Song dynasties; destroyed by a Yellow River flood at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it was reconstructed again at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty.

The main structures of the temple are the Grand Hall, the Octagonal Hall, the east and west chambers, and other buildings holding Buddhist sutras.

Inside the Octagonal Hall there is a wooden statue of the Goddess of Mercy with many hands and eyes which was carved during the reign of Emperor Qian Long (1736 -1795) of the Qing Dynasty and which is regarded as a masterpiece of wood carving from that era.

Iron Pagoda

Located in Iron Pagoda Park in the northeast part of the city, this structure was built in 1049 during the Northern Song Dynasty. With a history of more than nine hundred years, it is one of the earliest constructions made of glazed bricks and tiles in China. It got its name from the iron-gray color of its glazed bricks. The octagonal pagoda is fifty-five meters high (with its foundation buried in silt from the Yellow River) and has thirteen levels. Although it was constructed of glazed bricks of different shapes and sizes, it looks very much like a huge wooden pillar, with carved patterns of Buddhas, flowers, human figures and legendary animals, all representing the highly developed workmanship of the Song Dynasty. The top of the pagoda affords a good view of the whole city of Kaifeng.

Dragon Pavilion

This splendid building in the northwest corner of the city was originally the site of the imperial palace of the Northern Song Dynasty. The present building was reconstructed in 1692 during the Qing Dynasty. Standing on a thirteen-meter-high brick foundation, it is covered with golden glazed tiles and has graceful upturned eaves. On a slanting stone halfway up the seventy-two steps which lead to a raised platform in front of the building, there are some vague horseshoe outlines among the carved dragon patterns. According to an old legend, the horseshoe prints were left by Emperor Tai Zu, Zhao Kuangyin (727-976), of the Song Dynasty when he rode up the steps on horseback. 

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