Monday, June 1, 2015

Kaifeng, Henan One Day Trip (Henan and Xi'an Tour Day 1)

We joined 8 days trip to to Henan and Shaanxi Province, China organized by Apple Vacations & Conventions. Travelling westward along Huang He (Yellow River), we visited several attractions- Kaifeng City, Zhengzhou City, Yuntai Shan (Yuntai Mountain) near Jiaozuo, Shaolin Temple at Dengfeng, Luoyang City, and Xi'an City. Well, we would like to bring you to our first destination in our China trip- Kaifeng City.

Founded more than 2700 years ago, Kaifeng City (开封市) was important as the capital for 8 dynasties in China, and has been identified as one of the major ancient cities in China. However, in our country Malaysia, the city is famous because of the Mandarin television series "Justice Bao Qingtian (包青天)", which the story of Baozheng as a judge and prefect of Kaifeng was featured in 236 episodes.

We reached Kaifeng City around 2 pm. The first stop- Lord Bao Memorial Temple (包公祠). The temple was built in 1984 thus no historical value. However, we learned much about this historical figure in the next 60 minutes stay. Lord Bao Qingtian (包青天) real name was Baozheng (包拯). From the family of scholar, he stayed with his old parents till the age of 39. After the decease of his parents, he started his politician life as the magistrate of Tianchang County.

He became the prefect of Kaifeng City in the year of 1057. Although he held the position for only 1 year and a few months, he brought a few reformations. One of them was allowing the citizens to lodge of complaints directly to the administrator, by-passing the corrupted city clerks. He died in 1062 at the age of 65. In his 25 years of civil service, he punished many corrupted officers, and set a very good example as a righteous man.

During our visit, most of the information given in the temple were in Chinese only. Thus hire a tour guide or do some pre-visit reading is necessary for those who can't understand Chinese. Lord Bao Memorial Temple cannot be entered without a fee- CNY30 for adult and CNY15 for child. The operation hours: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm daily, and 7:30 am - 6:00 pm for winter. 

The entrance of Lord Bao Memorial Temple.

Baozheng was a man with medium stature with fair complexion- different from what we saw in the television series, which he was portrayed as dark, muscular, tall, and proud. The character of Baozheng as described according to the history was portrayed in Second Hall of the temple.

Baozheng as described in television series was featured in East Hall of the temple. Most of the description was not historically correct. For example, Lord Bao could never execute Chen Shimei (陈世美)- son-in-law of the emperor, as Lord Bao lived in Song Dynasty, while Chen Shimei lived in Qing Dynasty. Lord Bao's face was darkened by Chinese opera to feature his righteous character, and had been adopted by the television show.

The Main Hall shows Baozheng as a god of justice. The Main Hall is the place where people come to pay respect to Baozheng. "正大光明" or aboveboard describes why and how Baozheng becomes one of the god of justice.

 The temple compound was well-decorated.

 The rockery beside Lord Bao Lake.

Scenery beside Lord Bao Lake.

3:10 pm, we reached Kaifeng Fu (开封府), the governor office of Kaifeng City. Of course, this is a replica as the original Kaifeng Fu was destroyed by flood long ago. This replica of Kaifeng Fu locates at the north side of the West Lord Bao Lake (西包公湖), some 10 minutes away from Baozheng Memorial Temple.

"开封府" at the main entrance was written by famous calligrapher Cai Xiang (蔡襄) from Song Dynasty. Kaifeng Fu contains more than 50 pavilions and complements by beautiful gardens. This replica was built according to the plan from Song Dynasty, and had been rated as 4 stars attraction by China Government. The entrance fee was CNY60 for adult with opening hours 7 am - 7 pm.

Kaifeng Fu is huge. It took us more than 1 hour to walk around the area. Thus comfortable footwear is important. Umbrella is needed in case of raining as not all pavilions are connected with covered corridors. Snacks, beverages, and souvenirs were available for sale at Martial Art Arena.

 Main entrance with "Kaifeng Fu" written by Cai Xiang.

Yi Men (仪门) or the Gate of Rite is the door after the main entrance. The drum and the gong were used by citizens during Song Dynasty to summon officials from their office.

The main hall is the office of the governor, with the stone of admonition stands in front of the hall.

The stone of admonition states "everything that I earned was given by the people. It is easy to mistreat the people but it is hard to escape the judgement from god".

 Inside the main hall.

 The Lake of the Bright Mirror (明镜湖) and The Pavilion of Scholar Fan (范公阁).

The performance at Martial Art Arena (演武场). To know more about the performances in Kaifeng Fu, please visit the official website of Kaifeng.

Climbing onto the wall of Kaifeng Fu promises nice lake view from above.

4:30 pm, we reached the entrance of our next destination- Kaibao Shi Pagoda (开宝寺塔), or commonly known as Iron Pagoda of Kaifeng (开封铁塔). The pagoda was built using glazed bricks (琉璃砖) which the colour of the bricks resembles rusty iron. That's how the Iron Pagoda got its name. Built in 1049 in Song Dynasty, the octagonal pagoda is 55.88 meters in height.

The pagoda was built to replace its predecessor, which was destroyed by fire sparked by lightning. To avoid the lightning struck twice on the same place, engineers at that time decided to built the tower with glazed brick, which was non-flammable material with zero conductivity. The pagoda stands still through at least 38 earthquakes, many times of flood, storms, hails and wars. Consumes by time, the structure is now tilt a little bit to the southeast.

The entrance fee of the pagoda garden is CNY30. Another CNY30 is required to enter the pagoda. The garden opens 8:00 am - 5:30 pm. The pagoda was far from the entrance, thus we took the electric car (referred as battery car in China) to get to the compound the pagoda with CNY10 for a return trip. The pagoda was the only relic from ancient China that we visited in Kaifeng. It was amazing to see a pagoda that tall kept in good shape for such a long period of time. We lost our chance to enter the pagoda as it was closed to visitor at that time.

The entrance to the pagoda garden (upper left). The electric car service is available at the entrance (upper right). The whole garden is well decorated (lower right). The pagoda can be seen far away in the middle of the garden.

Family photo in front of the pagoda.

The top of the pagoda is now intalled with lightning rod (upper left) so the fury of Thor will not affect the structure anymore. The pagoda looks dull from distance away, but the exquisite sculptures on the glazed bricks can only be revealed when we get close enough to the structure.

We stayed in Zhong Zhou International Hotel (中州国际饭店) in Kaifeng City. The hotel was one of the top rated hotel in Kaifeng by Tripadvisor- clean, nice decoration, cozy room, polite staff, and with bathing water pumped from underground. The best thing was- we could control the temperature of the air condition whole night long. Located some 5 kms away from major attractions, the best way to move around from the hotel is by taxi. Xiao Song Cheng (小宋城) food center is located opposite of the hotel. It was a good place for supper.

We took our lunch at Kai Fu International Hotel at Zhengzhou and our dinner at Xiang Li Ren Jia Restaurant (湘里人家) at Kaifeng (upper row). We had the chance to try Kaifeng soup dumpling (开封汤包) at the restaurant (lower left). The taste was much below our expectation, and there was no soup within.  Besides, we had braised pork (pig feet) together with 9 other dishes. We had braised pork for a few consecutive meals in our whole trip.

Our dinner were sumptuous, but with a bit disappointment on the soup dumpling. We decided to try our luck at Xiao Song Cheng (upper row) for another round of dumpling- the taste was more or less the same. However, we did found some nice snacks there- the pear soup with crystal sugar (冰糖雪梨) (lower left), fried pork buns (生煎包) (lower right),  and almond tea (杏仁茶).The prices for the food and beverages a Xiao Song Cheng were reasonable with beautiful decoration.

For our first day China, we visited Lord Bao Memorial Temple and unveiled the truth behind the darkened face, strolled in the replica of Kaifeng governor office (or referred as prefecture), and witnessed a near 1000 years old Kaibao Shi Ta, tried some of the local delicacies, and rested in one of the top rated hotel in the city. We continued our trip early the next day to Yuntai Mountain nearby Jiaozuo,  around 155 kms away from Kaifeng City. Follow us now.

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