Henan Province.

Our second trip of the summer is to the Henan Province, the capital of China for 8 dynasties (that’s over 2000 years) the most important of which was the Song Dynasty from 960 – 1279 AD.

Chinese people say that the map of China resembles a chicken and they often refer to places as the chicken head or the chicken feet. The Henan Province is known as the heart of China because it is in the location of the chicken’s heart.

We took the high speed train and even traveling at speeds of up to 300km per hour the journey from Shanghai still took over 5 hours.

This trip is with the Concordia Taiji class (& families). Here we all are ready to board the train. Masks are compulsory on public transport here.

Our first day was spent in Kaifeng in the Millennium City Park. Built 20 years ago, this is a modern reconstruction of an ancient garden designed by Zhang Zeduan, the only record of which is a long thin painting.

Being in the park is like stepping back in time and immersing yourself in the Song Dynasty. To start off you can hire traditional costumes so Leping and I did just that. It was great fun dressing up and even having our hair done.

For about £5 we could wear the costume around the park all day. This gave plenty of opportunities for posing against various backdrops.

Then it was time to wander around the park. Dotted among the food vendors and shops were various shows and displays from stilt walking puppets to magicians.

One that you don’t see very often anywhere else was cock fighting. I had never witnessed this as it is a sport that was outlawed in the England 200 years ago. To be honest, not my favorite… poor birds!

The ancient battle re-enactments were quite stunning though with particularly loud explosions and dramatic effects.

This was the sea fight

And then there was some pretty impressive horsemanship with close fighting at a gallop.

But there were two occasions today which were hilarious. The first was the fire eater when Noah, one of our younger members at 14 years old, was picked for some audience participation and to his mother’s horror was given a cigarette to light from the guy’s breath.

Then there was the balcony show where the richest merchant in Kaifeng was offering the hand of his beautiful daughter in marriage to whoever caught the ball that was thrown down. Noah valiantly jumped and in a move worthy of a rugby forward clutched the ball of red cloth and managed to hang onto it despite being mobbed by all the surrounding men!

Up he went to the balcony where he was dressed in red robes and duly married to the daughter. It was the cause of great merriment in our party.

It was a beautiful place and a great time was had by all. I couldn’t have wished for a better day of cultural immersion.

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