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Kaifeng (Museum of Northern Song Dynasty)| China travel guide

Chinese civilization
scene of Kaifeng City
The grand city
Gardens in Kaifeng
Iron Pagoda
symbol of Kaifeng

►Kaifeng plays an important historical role in ancient China, especially as the national capital of northern Song Dynasty.

Kaifeng(开封) located in the center of Henan Province, was anciently called Dongjing (East Capital, "东京" in Chinese,  always newcomers are confused by this ancient name because Tokyo, the capital of Japan, has the same name in Chinese when it is mentioned in China). It lies at the south side of Yellow River, which traditionally was considered the cradle of Chinese civilization.
kaifeng night scene
The above photo shows the amazing night scene of Kaifeng City.

It is a time-honored city and used to be the national capital of northern Song Dynasty, and it was called Bianzhou, Bianliang and Bianjing as well. Kaifeng is one of top-seven ancient capitals and one of 24 famous cities issued officially by State Council for their history and culture. It has more than 2700 years old since it was established as a city. It is equally famous with other six ancient capitals including Xian, Luoyang, Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Anyang. Historically, in terms of the developed water system, better irrigation system, mild climate and the easy transportation, Kaifeng was the earliest development area. Especially in Northern Song Dynasty, Kaifeng served as capital, was the center of Chinese politics, economy, military, science and technology as well as culture, and it was one of the most prosperous cities in the world.

Its urban construction design is unique. The grand city layout is divided into outer wall, inner wall and royal town. Three city walls from outside to inside and three moats are different from others. The urban traffic was comprised of the waterway and land-way, and both were convenient. In layout, it broke through the limits of disconnection of market-recreation zone and residential zone. Before that, the division of different functional zones was popularly used in Tang Dynasty. Such a design makes the oneness of different zones in city and increased the population of urban settlers, and let the number of residents of Kaifeng get up to 1.5 million. The non-agricultural population increased dramatically brought the development of city handiworks and business.

Gardens in Kaifeng are also strongly featured. It was said that there used to be more than 100 temples and gardens, and the famous royal garden was Genyue (艮岳), which is a gathering show of different characteristics. In the garden, many rare and treasured plants and animals were well raised, and some garden researchers considered it was the outstanding representative of garden during its transitional time. There are many cultural relics and antiques in Kaifeng including 13 cultural sites under state-level protection and 38 under province-level protection as well as 162 under city-level or county-level protection.

The widely famous attractions are Iron Pagoda(铁塔)DaXiangguo Temple(大相国寺, a famous Chinese Buddhist Temple)and The Garden of Qingmingshanghetu(清明上河园). All of them have the high-level cultural value. As one of three stone-carving centers, Kaifeng has a large number of treasured collections from Han dynasty to the time of Republic of China. All of them are all the rare materials for historical research, calligraphy education as well as science and technology study. 

In Kaifeng, a large amount of famous people such as clean-handed Bao Lord, Honest Generals from Yang Family, Wang Anshi as the historic-famous reformist and Yuefei known as national hero are all brought the great reputations to Kaifeng. Kaifeng is also the earliest city that Jews settled in. During the time of Northern Song dynasty, a batch of Jews via India moved to Kaifeng, and Emperor at the time announced them to be members of Chinese.

Iron pagoda is the city symbol of Kaifeng, and it was established in 1049 with 55.88 meters. It has eight angles and 13 stories. The body of pagoda was made of brown glazed bricks. It currently is the highest building in Kaifeng. It is still preserved well although it experienced thousand years and the shellfire attack from Japanese army. Chairman Mao highly praises this iron pagoda as the unbeatable iron building. So it becomes the symbol of history and spirit of Kaifeng.


Iron tower in Kaifeng
The Iron Pagoda is usually regarded as the calling card of Kaifeng City.

►Outstanding Chinese painting works named Qingmingshanghetu & the Garden based on it.

Kaifeng was also extremely famous for a large-sized painting named Qingmingshanghetu(清明上河图,an epoch-making painting initially painted by Zhang Zeduan, the greatest painter of Chinese painting in Northern Song Dynasty). This long and complicated painting is themed with the daily market image and commoners lives in Northern Song Dynasty, and it was the first painting specially showing the commoners life and the prosperity of urban market. It currently is considered as the national treasure).

Below, some sections of Painting Qingmingshanghetu are shown:


This is the city wall of Bianliang, currently called Kaifeng, appreciators can see comers and goers are going through the city gate. The ships and boats are running on the river. all is full of vigor.   


This is the image section themed with the downtown. The blooming market and the crowed streets as well as the houses all show the prosperity of Bianliang, used to be the national capital of Northern Song Dynasty.  


This is the image sectiion themed with the beautiful natural and cultural landscape of Kaifeng, the trees, the elegent bridge, and the traditional architectures and gardens in a harmonious  environment. And some tall figures could be seen, they are wandering near the garden, which shows their social status. All the picture not only shows the traditional beauty but also shows the ancient people's life. 



 The above pictures show the image section themed with the grand architectures near to river. The architectures are so magnificent and like the royal palaces. the cruises on the river are also wonderful. the trees, the figures and their houses are all showing the richness of people at the time. 


This is the image section shows the prosperity of market and the beauty of the gardens, maybe the royal garden. the whole painting shows the life and social life at the time.  


This is a theme highlighted the market and the importance of river in Bianliang and local residents' life.  The common houses, the walkers , sedan chairs, ships and boats, bridges as well as the workers  are all showing the real life at the time. 



Other information in Kaifeng City:
Kaifeng Chrysanthemum Festival

Famous Neighboring City of Kaifeng:


Related tours:
China Ancient Capitals Discovery Tour


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