Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Kaifeng is an ancient city in central China about an hour or so from Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province.
Kaifeng was an early capital of China, but it's more well known today as being the Jewish capital of China. It was the first city in China where the Jews settled when they arrived after journeying along the Silk Road during the Song Dynasty.
I've been to Kaifeng twice, the first time with a Jewish friend who wanted to see what remained of the city's Jewish heritage. Very little, as it turns out. A Chinese co-worker in Beijing made arrangements with a friend who worked for the tourist office in Kaifeng to show us around. Mostly he pointed out spots where Jewish buildings used to be, such as a hospital now standing where once stood a synagogue.
The New York Times' travel section has just published an article on Jewish Kaifeng,w hich is worth reading. Also worth reading is Peony, a novel by Pearl Buck, about a Chinese Jewish family.
Kaifeng is worth visiting even if you're not making a pilgrimage to Judaism. It has lovely parks, an ancient shopping street where you can identify the merchants by the statues about his door, and wonderful hui mian or mutton noddles, which is a local specialty dish. The picture above is a close-up of tiles on Kaifeng's Iron Pagoda.
For more information about traveling in China, especially the Beijing area, please see my website. If you have questions about China, please email me. I've also written several guidebooks on Beijing; be sure to check them out at guidegecko.com.