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Photographer's Note

Usually I tend to go for rather strictly composed shots, but here many haphazard elements intrude. Against the backdrop of the catholic church in downtown Kaifeng, there's a man passing by on a bicycle, a modern car driving into the frame, the small shops, the electicity wires and my travel companions waiting for me to finally take that damn picture.

The result may be a bit ramshackle, but it has grown into one of my favourite pictures from our 2007 trip. Precisely because of that. I'm curious to find out what it'll do here...

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Kaifeng (开封) is located on the south bank of the Yellow River and is one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China.

In 364 BC, the state of Wei during the Warring States Period founded a capital city here called Daliang and linked the area to the Yellow River by building the first canals.

During the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) Kaifeng was the capital with a population of over 400,000, living both inside and outside the city wall. The city was a commercial and industrial center at the intersection of four major canals.

It is believed that with a population of 600,000 to 700,000 Kaifeng was the largest city in the world from 1013 to 1127, when the city fell to invaders and came under the rule of the Jin.

At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty in 1368, Kaifeng was made the capital of Henan Province, but in 1642, it was flooded by the Ming army with water from Yellow River to prevent the peasant rebel Li Zicheng from taking over. And after this disaster, the city was abandoned again.

Under the celebrated Qing emperor Kangxi (1662), Kaifeng was rebuilt. However, another flooding occurred in 1841. Another reconstruction in 1843 produced contemporary Kaifeng as we know it.

Kaifeng is known for having the oldest extant Jewish community in China, the Kaifeng Jews, and also features prominently in the history of the Jezuit missionaries in China. Even today there are active catholic and muslim communities in Kaifeng.

We found Kaifeng a fascinating place to visit, one of the best places of our 2007 trip, actually. It is steeped in history and there are several sights, which - though never spectacular - make Kaifeng just a great place to explore. And to top it all off, the city's famous night market is a great place to socialize and a real gourmet's paradise.

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Additional Photos by Benny Verbercht (BennyV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2810 W: 35 N: 5717] (30480)
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