Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/K'ai-Fung Foo

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See also Kaifeng and the Kaifeng Jews on Wikipedia; K'ai-Fêng Fu in the 11th Edition; and the disclaimer.

K’AI-FUNG FOO is the capital of the province of Honan in China, and is one of the most ancient cities in the empire. A city on the present site was first built by Duke Chwang (774700 b.c.) to mark off (k’ai) the boundary of his fief (fung); hence its name. It has, however, passed under several aliases in Chinese history. During the Chow, Suy, and T’ang dynasties (557907) it was known as P’een-chow. During the Woo-tai, or five dynasties (907960), it was the Tung king, or eastern capital. Under the Sung and Kin dynasties (9601260) it was called P’een-king. By the Yuen or Mongol dynasty (12601368), its name was again changed to P’een-leang, and on the return of the Chinese to power with the establishment of the Ming dynasty (13681644), it was rechristened by its original name of Kai-fung. The city is situated at the point where the last spur of the Kwan-lun mountain system melts away in the eastern plain, and a few miles south of the Yellow river. Its position, therefore, lays it open to the destructive influences of the Hwang-ho. In 1642 it was totally destroyed by a flood caused by the dykes of that river bursting, and on several prior and subsequent occasions it has suffered injury from the same cause. The city is large and imposing-looking, with broad streets and handsome edifices, the most noticeable of which are a twelve-storied pagoda 600 feet high, and a watch tower from which, at a height of 200 feet, the inhabitants are able to observe the approach of the yellow waters of the river in times of flood. The city wall forms a substantial protection, and is pierced by five gates. The whole neighbourhood, which is the site of one of the earliest settlements of the Chinese in China, is full of historical associations, and it was in this city that the Jews who entered China in the reign of Ming-te (5875 a.d.) first established a colony. For many centuries these people held themselves aloof from the natives, and practised the rites of their religion in a temple built and supported by themselves. Of late years, however, they have fallen upon evil times, and in 1851, out of the seventy families which constituted the original colony, only seven remained. For fifty years no rabbi had ministered to the wants of this remnant. Their temple was in ruins, and the people themselves were reduced to the lowest extreme of poverty. In 1853 the city was attacked by the Tai-ping rebels, and, though at the first assault its defenders successfully resisted the enemy, it was subsequently taken. With the ruthlessness common to the Tai-pings the captors looted and partially destroyed the town, which still retains traces of this its latest misfortune. Of the population, which is probably not far short of 100,000, it is estimated that two-thirds of the tradesmen, tavern keepers, educated classes, and attendants at the Government offices are Mahometans. The city, which is situated in 34° 52′ N. lat., and 114° 33′ E. long., forms also the district city of Seang-foo.