Currently home to over 4.5 million residents, the city of Kaifeng began in the 4th century BC as the capital of the Wei State. Weathering political turmoil and natural catastrophe over the course of centuries, Kaifeng has always risen to meet its challenges. As one of the 8 Ancient Capitals of China, and known as the "Capital of Seven Dynasties," Kaifeng reached its epoch during the Song Dynasty. It was at this time that the city ascended to prominence in culture, science, the arts and leadership."
During the Song Dynasty, Kaifeng's most celebrated figure rose to prominence, the civil servant, Lord Bao. Bao stands as Kaifeng's, and perhaps all of China's, most magnanimous symbol of justice, ruling over his jurisdiction with unflagging integrity. Always regarding the law over his own well being, it is often cited that Lord Bao would carry out his magisterial duties even in the face of direct imperial threats and at th cost of personal relationships. In one particular case, Bao tearfully carried out the execution of his own nephew for crimes against the people. This revered and worshipped symbol of Chinese justice and duty is memorialized in Kaifeng at the Memorial Temple of Lord Bao.
Geographically, Kaifeng's early development was due in large part to its abundant water resources and temperate climate. An intricate system of canals evolved through the ages to provide the city with commercial and political opportunities. Designed in three parts, Kaifeng includes the Imperial Palace, the Inner City and the Outer City. Citywide roads, railways and channels tie the metropolis together via readily convenient transportation. Kaifeng is an up and coming economic force, as its economy has grown beyond its agricultural origins to include manufacturing, tourism and handicrafts industries.
Stemming from its rich and abundant historical presence, Kaifeng contains several ancient sites of interest. Perhaps most famously, the Royal Genyue Garden features rare flora and fauna within the backdrop of the famous mountain ranges of Henan. Historians regard Genyue as a transitional masterpiece in Chinese gardening history. In terms of historically relevant relics, Kaifeng houses 185 protected cultural relics, many of which can be found in the Kaifeng Museum, which displays numerous steles and stone inscriptions. Other notable tourist attractions include the Iron Pagoda, the Qingming Festival Market Garden, Dragon Pavilion Scenic Spot, Kaifeng Fu and the Stele Forest of the Imperial Academy.
In terms of spiritual and religious relevance, Kaifeng is unusually diverse in the presence of well-defined Jewish and Muslim communities. The Kaifeng Jews have made the city their home for over 1,000 years. Meanwhile Kaifeng's Muslim enclave worships in what is likely China's oldest mosque. Representing Buddhism, the Xiangguo Temple is historically known as an international hub for the exchange of Buddhist culture.
As a sporting town, Kaifeng is most famous for its annual China Zheng-Kai International Marathon. The only major international sporting competition in the Henan province, this 42-kilometer foot race attracts thousands of athletes every year.
In August of 1995, Li Gongtao, a retired cadre from the Kaifeng Supply and Marketing Cooperative, accomplished the ambitious mission of amassing China's leading stele collection. Today, the Stele Forest of Hanyuan is considered one of three preeminent stele collections, the other two being the Xi'an Beilin Museum and the Qufu Confucian Temple.
Weathering the ravages of time and fate, Kaifeng Fu has been rebuilt and restored to replicate the magnificent halls of justice that once housed the legendary Lord Bao. Today Kaifeng Fu serves as a memorial, a park and a performance venue for Chinese operas, most notably the local opera Lord Bao Investigating Cases in Kaifeng Fu.
Built in 555 AD, during one of the early peaks of Chinese Buddhism, the Xiangguo Temple has seen more than its fair allotment of turbulence. Wars and floods over the course of many centuries have taken their toll on this venerable abbey. Yet, no matter fate's dire barrage on the Xiangguo Temple, this sacred monument has always found its way back to prominence.
Legend has it that the city of Kaifeng was once saved by the erection of a towering pagoda over a rushing water fountain. This fountain sat at one end of an underground waterway connecting Kaifeng to the remote sea.
As the carriers of potency and good fortune, dragons have been associated with the Chinese imperial class since antiquity. In ancient times, the Chinese believed emperors to be human incarnations of powerful dragons. It is from this belief that the Dragon Pavilion earned its name.