Imperial Quarter


Brief History of the Kaifeng Imperial District

Early records refer to Kaifeng as Daliang, established in the state of Wei at around 364 BCE. A walled Imperial District (or Cheng) was built and then soon-after destroyed by the abrupt and brutal arrival of the Qin Dynasty. Only the Shi (or marketplace) remained intact. It wasn't until the 700's when once again Kaifeng was reborn and the Imperial District was rebuilt.
The Imperial District of Kaifeng was revitalized when Kaifeng was connected to the Grand Canal in 781 CE. Kaifeng was already connected to other main canals by then as well making this a wonderful chapter in the history of this intriguing little corner of China, the Imperial District of Kaifeng.
The Tang Dynasty took power and built another incarnation of Kaifeng (which was called Bian in this chapter of history). This is where the Kaifeng Imperial District blooms into a high point in her history. Kaifeng was capital for most of the Five Dynasties period which meant that the Imperial District was added to and rebuilt. It is said that this was a renaissance period for the Imperial District of Kaifeng. It also was a period where the beginning of a tremendous reputation for printing occurred, much of this occurred within the safer walled Imperial District of Kaifeng.
During the Song Dynasty, Kaifeng was prosperous, this continued until the early 1100's when Kaifeng -including a vast majority of the Imperial District- was once again destroyed by war. One surviving landmark -built in the Song Dynasty- is the Iron Pagoda (or Po Tower), a magnificent brick pagoda intricately detailed. Located in the NE corner of the Cheng (walled administrative Imperial district), it is part of the Youguo Temple. This structure was built in 1049 to replace a wooden Pagoda that had burned down in a lightning fire five years previously. The original wooden pagoda was reported to be 120 meters in height, compared to the height of the current Iron Pagoda of just under 57 meters.
It was in the 1100s that the Kaifeng Imperial District was built into the type of layout that we usually associate with an Imperial District, the grid pattern and use of now traditional design principals used to this day. It is generally agreed by most sources that in 1127 CE Kaifeng fell to Jurchen invaders, and that the Jin Dynasty made Kaifeng their capital. Interestingly enough, the Imperial district was the only part that survived this time. It was during the Jin Dynasty that construction of the Memorial Temple of Lord Bao started in the SW corner of the Cheng district, this enormous complex was a dedication to the much beloved man. Later on -early in the Yuan Dynasty- construction of the Chongyang Temple (later known as Yanqin Temple) was started.
Here are some terms to help illustrate what exactly an Imperial District is.
The two main types of Chinese cities (or districts within cities) are: Cheng (dir. transl. as City Wall) which is a walled administrative center often including the Palace, Administrative Offices, and homes of aristocracy and royalty; the other type being called Shi (transl. as Market) which denotes -of course- a trade-based city/district, or market town or market district. As for the Imperial District or Cheng, there are different components. The main element of a Cheng district is the Yamen (District Magistrate Compound).
Sources: Mote, F. W. Imperial China 900-1800. Harvard University Press, 2003 Shaughnessy, Edward L. China: Empire and Civilization. Oxford University Press USA, 2005 Wilkinson, Endymion. Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard University Asia Center, 2000 New World Encyclopedia-Henan Cultural China wikipedia-Kaifeng Britannica Pnline Encyclopedia-Kaifeng

Written & compiled by Ziyi.
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