Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples Travel Guide
The Mountain Resort (the Qing dynasty´s summer palace), the city in Chengde in Hebei Province is a cool and scenic summer resort 250 kilometers northeast of Beijing.
More than two hundred years ago Emperor Kang Xi (1662-1723) discovered this rare scenic spot during a hunting trip. It took eighty-seven years to complete the construction of a temporary palace in what used to be called Rehe (Jehol), also known by the quaint name "Mountain Hamlet for Escaping the Heat."
The palace is enclosed by a wall over ten kilometers long, which rises and falls with the mountain ridges. It is the largest and best-preserved imperial palace outside of the capital. Temples of various architectural styles and imperial gardens blend harmoniously into a landscape of lakes, pastureland and forests.
In addition to its aesthetic interest, the Mountain Resort is a rare historic vestige of the final development of feudal society in China. The Eight Outer Temples, as they were under eight different administrations, they were usually referred to as the "eight Outer Temples." Eleven splendid temples were built more than two hundred years ago east and north of the resort. Only seven temples remain intact today, reflecting the traditional art and culture of the Han, Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan nationalities.
Building Construction on a Massive Scale Completed in Nearly 90 years
When he made his inspection tour of North China, Emperor
Kangxi found Chengde the proper site to build traveling palaces on account of its excellent topography beautiful landscape and congenial weather. He undertook the building as he had in mind to promote his home region, which was Northeast China, to consolidate his rule over the Guannei or "China within the Great Wall" and control over various tribes in Mongolia.
Building began in l703 (42nd year, Kangxi, reign) with the dredging of lakes, roads building and housing construction. A building project of imperial gardens and parks stand on a massive scale. About 36 scenes spots (the Kangxi 36 Scenes) were completed by l7l3 with walls as enclosure. Construction was halted during the reign of Yongzheng but began again in l74l by Emperor Qianlong. It lasted till 1792 when it was basically completed. In all the construction lasted nearly 90 years.
Some 36 scenes of Qianlong plus eight religious shrines on the outskirts of the resort were added. The whole area covers 564 hectares. The resort was unique and massive an outstanding masterpiece of imperial parks and gardens, leaving behind a precious heritage of ancient Chinese architecture.
A Resort Using Mountainous Topography in an Ingenious Way with Well-Defined Areas of Landscape, the Chengde Mountain Resort is different from other imperial gardens of China. There are neither huge buildings, miniature architecture in brilliant colors, ornate decorations nor luxuriant display. It is built against mountains and by lakes. Going back to nature is the design in architecture, well consummated to the highest degree.
There are four scenic areas based on topography. The palace area is on the southern bank of the lake near the city area. The land is flat and houses face good direction. Palaces are found where emperors used to attend administrative affairs. The lake district, north of the palace, 43 has dotted by eight islands (big and small), which divide the district into 8 sections, well-graded and modeled after scenic places among waters of South China.
The plain is at the foot of the mountain north of the lake, where we find Wanmuyuan(Ten Thousand Tree Orchard)and Shimadai Flatland to Run Horses during Training).It is densely wooded with a vast flat grassland. The hilly area is northwest of the villa, occupying four-fifth of the area Various styles of architecture are found amid wooded mountains, rich in spatial composition.
Architecture Blending the Art of South and North China Layout, greenery and water surface are intimately integrated in the architecture of the Chengde Mountain Resort despite the small scale of its buildings.
Whitewashed villas and winding corridors are simple but suitably comfortable in appearance. Rockery, piled up as a rock garden, offer multiplicity of views--a characteristic of garden skill of South China combined with architectural structure and engineering methods commonly used in North China.
The architectural arts of the South and North are in perfect consummation with southern China garden elegance combined with northern architectural devices. The Chengde Mountain Resort possesses a style all its own in landscape architecture.
Semi-circular Magnificent Temple Complex Symbolizing Solidarity of the Minority Peoples around a Centralized State Power. Its early years the Qing Dynasty carried out a policy to promote Lamaism to win over the national minorities in West and north China.
In the building the mountain villa in Chengde, lama temple complex modeled on Tibet and Xinjiang´s lamaseries came into being in the outlying districts so that aristocrats of national minorities might worship their gods during their trips to see the emperor.
The temples are built on mountain slopes, facing the sun, one storey rising above another. The main halls stand in great prominence, magnificent and spectacular. The Puning Temple(Temple of Universal Tranquility)is modeled after the Samadhi Temple in Tibet.
Its center represents Sumeru in accordance with the Mahayana scripture. It is the center of the world. The four surrounding temples symbolize the four continents. The upper part is an architectural adaptation of the Han Chinese people. The architecture represents solidarity of various ethnic groups in China and cultural exchanges in the art and science of building among them.
Can be reached by Bus No.5,7,11,15 from the Chengde railway station, or you can take a taxi to there within CNY10.
Recommended time for a visit: two and half hours.
There are lots of beautiful legends in the palace, so you´d better listen to the guide´s explanation carefully, so that you can get rich Chinese culture.