Chengde is one of the 24 famous historical and cultural cities and one of the 44 major tourist attractions in China.
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Located in northeast Hebei Province, 250 kilometers from Beijign, Chengde is one of the 24 famous historical and cultural cities and one of the 44 major tourist attractions in China. Surrounded by mountains and with brooks and streams running through the city, Chengde has beautiful scenery and a pleasant climate. It is here that the austere, elegant Chengde Mountain Resort, the grand “Eight Outer Temples” and the strange hills and crags combine to make Chengde a city of scenic and historical interest with a special and rational layout, as well as a tourist attraction well known both at home and abroad.
Eight Outer Temples or Eight Temples Beyond the Great Wall 外八庙
Outside the walls of the Chengde Imperial Travelling Palace, temples in the Tibetan, Han and Mongolian styles are found scattered among the nearby hills. Built on a larger scale than any of the temples in Beijing, they are collectively known as the Waibamiao外八庙 (Eight Outer Temples or Eight Temples Beyond the Great Wall), because they were administered by eight different departments and located outside Chengde City, In fact, there were 12 large-scale groups of temples, seven of these had been destroyed or damaged, only left 5 still standing. The temples reflect artistic characteristics of the Han, Tibetan and Mongolian nationalities.
Construction of these temples began in 1713 by the second Qing Emperor Kangxi and was completed in 1780 by the fourth Qing emperor Qianlong lasting 67 years. To consolidate the unity of China’s multi-national state, the Qing government adopted the policy of “ruling according to their customs” towards the Mongolian, Tibetan and other minority nationalities and constructed a number of temples with distinctive styles in line with their religious beliefs. Imposing, elegant and exquisite, these temples combine the essence of the architectural art of Many nationalities. The Eight Outer Temples and the Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat are a foil to each other. The Eight Outer Temples are the crystallization of the blood and sweat of the Chinese labouring people. They not only shine with the radiance of the brilliant Chinese culture but also bear witness to the unity and development of China’s multi-national state. Those five remaining temples are as follows:
Temple of Universal Tranquillity 普宁寺
Situated to the north of the Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat, the Temple of Universal Tranquillity was built in 1755 by Qing emperor Qianlong in pursuance of Emperor Kangxi, his grandfather’s policy of “control through conciliation怀柔” and in commemoration of his victory in suppressing the rebellion of the upper strata of the Junggar people in Xinjiang. The Temple consists of many magnificent halls and laid out in apple-pie order, covering an area of 23,000 square meters. Its front half follows the layout of the Buddhist monasteries of the Han people. The Grand Hall of the Buddha is characteristic of the ancient architecture of the Han people. Its rear half is based on the Buddhist concept of the world as manifested in the sacred place of Tibetan Lamaism, the Sameye Monastery. The 36.75-meter-high Hall of Mahayana and its surrounding terraces, halls and Lamaist pagodas with their peculiar layouts bespeaks the unique style of the Tibetan plastic arts. The huge wooden image of the Buddha in the Hall of Mahayana is a rare image of its kind (tree wood such as pine, cypress, elm, fir and linden are used for carving the giant Buddha). With an exact height of 23.511 meters towering up through the building’s five storeys, known as the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin) with a thousand hands and a thousand eyes, the wooden Buddhist figure with golden paint measures nearly 10 meters around the waist and weighs about 110 tons. Well-proportioned and magnificent, this Buddha is one of the largest wood sculptured Buddhas still existing in China. Each of the Buddha’s fingers on its 42 arms is thicker than an average person’s leg. On the head of the statue stands a smaller image, 1.2 meters tall, which according to Tradition represents Guanyin’s teacher Amitabha. His position on top of Guanyin’s head denotes the high esteem in which he was held. In the first half of 1999, the Buddha was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest statue of its kind in the world. The figure, which was carved in 1755, is made of 120 cubic meters of wood, enough to build a four-storey house. The Central Research Institute for Relics Protection and the Prospecting and Designing Institute under the Ministry of Construction measured its exact height, 27.21 meters.
The Hall of the Great Vehicle is surrounded by a number of smaller halls and white terraces, which are arranged in a mandala pattern, representing the structure of the universe. The hall itself symbolizes Mount Sumeru, the center of the Buddhist universe, and surrounding it are the “four greater continents” and the “eight lesser continents.
Renovation of the famous wooden statue of Avalokitesvara in the Temple of Universal Tranquillity was started in late 1998. The project’s implementation was divided into two stages. During the first stage, high-tech methods were used to steam-clean the Buddha, which towers 22 meters and has 42 arms with an eye on each palm. Modelled on a Tibetan temple, the Temple of Universal Tranquillity is a key relics site under State protection. In 1994, it was evaluated worthy of the World Cultural Heritage List together with the other historical interests in Chengde, where the famous Imperial Summer Resort is located.
Putuozongsheng (The Potarak Doctrine) Temple 普陀宗乘之庙（亦称小布达拉宫）
The Temple is also known as the Lesser Potala Palace. Built within more than 4 years from 1767 to 1771, the Temple is situated north of the Mountain Resort. Putuozongsheng is modeled on the Potala Palace in Tibet, and therefore it is also named “Lesser Potala Palace .” The entire Temple encompasses 220,000 square meters. It was built by Qing Emperor Qinglong to celevrate his 60th anniversary, empress’s 80th anniversary and to host the upper strata personages of the minority peoples from Mongolia, Qinghai,and Xinjiang who came to join in his birthday celebrations. The Temple has a special architecture, the Temple is made up of 50 Buddhist halls, scripture-reciting halls, monks’ living quarters, red terraces, white terraces topped with one or five pagodas and glazed ceremonial arches which rise and fall with the Mountain slopes in a variable rectangular disposition. The red terrace is 42.5 meters high and 59.7 meters in width. It is the main structure within the Temple and imposing. The Temple compound is tranquil and peaceful where stand tall pines, cypresses and rockeries, adding solemnity to the ambient atmosphere.
The Xumifushoumiao (Temple of Sumeru Happiness and Longevity) 须弥福寿之庙
Encompassing 37.900 square meters, the Temple was constructed in 1780 after the model of the Tibetan Tashihunpo (or Tashilunbu) Monastery at Xigaze (Shigatse) and its name is a direct translation of the Tibetan name “Temple of Complete Happiness and Longevity.” The year 1780 was the 70th birthday of Emperor Qianlong, therefore the celebrations were held on a larger scale than usual. This Temple was specially built in Tibetan style as a temporary residence (or travelling palace) and scripture-teaching place for the Sixth Panchen Lama in 1780 when the latter traveled all the way from Xigaze to Chengde to offer birthday celebrations to Emperor Qianlong. The Temple contains both the layout of Tibetan palace buildings and the special features of ancient Han people’s architecture, making it a rare specimen of the combination of the styles of ancient Han and Tibetan architecture. It takes on added elegance and splendour with its imposing halls, red walls, glittering gilded roofs, gold dragons poised as if ready to spring, glazed pagodas, luxuriant woods and unique rockeries. “Xumifushou” is the Chinese translation of Trashi Lhümpo: trashi means fushou (auspicious longevity), and lhümpo and xumi are both transcriptions of the Sanskrit sumeru, which literally means “mountain of marvelous heigjt.”
The Temple of Pacifying the Outlying Areas / The Temple of Consolation for People from Afar 安远庙
Constructed in 1764, Anyuan Temple, an imitation of Ili Temple in Xinjiang is situate due east of the Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat. Previously in 1759, more than 6,000 people of the Dashidawa clan达什达瓦部of the Junggar tribe 准珂尔部in Xinjiang migrated to the former Rehe Province (Chengde being its capital before its abolition as a province after 1949). Because their Gu’erzha Temple on the northern bank of the Ili River in Xinjiang had been destroyed during a war, Qing emperor Qianlong had a similar Temple built in Chengde for their worship, naming it Anyuansi. The Temple roofs are covered with black glazed tiles. Serving as a foil to green mountains, blue sky and white clouds在青天，蓝天和白云的衬托下，the Temple looks more magnificent and solemn with religious atmosphere. It is said that in the concept of Buddhism, black colour represents the Buddhist Nirvana Mountain (Nirvana涅 means『of Buddhist monks or nuns』pass away圆寂).Buddhists believe that they will achieve charitable and pious deeds功德圆满 after death and will not suffer re-birth and re-death nor they will get suffering of samsara (transmigration轮回). At the same time, in Buddhism black colour is emblematic of a strong wind, which can help the sailing boat to accelerate its speed and get to the shore of the Land of UItimate BIiss 极乐世界as soon as possible. Another saying goes: black colour stands for water. The Ili Temple was destroyed by fire and the Anyuan Temple is topped with black colour, which is symbolic of water covering the roofs of the temple象征有水压顶.
The Temple of Universal Happiness 普乐寺
Encompassing 24,000 square meters, the Temple of Universal Happiness (also known as Round Pavilion圆亭子) was erected in 1766 when the upper strata personages from the Mongolian and the northwestern tribes came to pay respects to Qing emperor Qianlong for the stability and peace in northwestern region of China. The main building, the Pavilion of the Brilliance of the Rising Sun (旭光阁), is noted for its caisson ceiling and unique wooden mandala, the only one of its kind in China outside Tibet. The temple’s outer walls were once topped by eight colourfully glazed-tile pagodas built on lotus flower pedestals, but nowadays only one of them still stands. Legend has it that they are said to symbolize the lotus flowers that appeared at every step taken by Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, when he was very young.
The Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat or Mountain Manor for Aviding (Esaping) the Summer Heat 避暑山庄
The Chengde Mountain Resort (Bishushanzhuang) or literally “Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat” in the northern part of the city was the biggest garden of the imperial family in the Qing Dynasty.
In order to consolidate the unity of the multi-national state and pacify the frontier areas, Emperor Kangxi, the second Emperor of the Qing Dynasty made many inspection tours in North China. During his inspection tours, he found that Chengde with its proximity to the capital of Beijing was beautiful in scenery and pleasant in climate. Therefore, in 1703 he decided to have a summer resort built here. Construction of the project was completed in 1790 lasting 87 years. Within the Mountain Resort, there are more than 20 building complexes scattered throughout the park, consisting of more than 100 individual halls, pavilions, studios, pagodas and terraces. Each of these complexes has its poetic name. Every year both Qing emperors Kangxi and Qianlong spent about six months enjoying the cool and handing government affairs here. Because the Qing rulers could not accustom to Beijing’s hot dry summers and sought relief by traveling north of the Great Wall. After the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1911, the Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat had been left in disrepair. Since 1949, the new China has listed it as a major historical monument under the state protection and allocated a large sum of money to have it restored. Nowadays, it has taken a completely new look and become a bustling tourist destination.
The Mountain Resort encompasses 5.64 square kilometers (twice the size of Summer Palace in Beijing) and the wall enclosing it is as long as 10 kilometers. The Mountain Resort is divided into two parts—the Palace area and the garden area. The entire scenery creates an effect often Seen in traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Rows upon rows of pavilions and halls bejewel the whole resort, and temples and nunneries dot the deep valleys and tree-clad, undulating mountains.
In the southern part of the lake area are the Palace buildings where the Qing emperors lived, conducted state affairs and held grand celebrations. The main buildings are: Zhenggong正宫 (Front Palace), Songhezhai松鹤斋 (Pine-Crane Hall), Donggong东宫 (East Palace) and their annexes. Tourists on their way to the Front Palace have to pass through Lizhengmen丽正门 (Gate of Beauty and Righteousness). Lizheng—Beauty and Righteousness—symbolize solidarity of all the nationalities in China, the country’s prosperity and unity. Just inside is Wumen (Meridian Gate) with a horizontal tablet engraved with the golden characters for “Mountain Hamlet to Flee the Heat” in the calligraphy of Qing Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722). The courtyard is paved with grey bricks and luxuriant old pines are grown here and there, surrounding the environment with a serene and solemn atmosphere. The main hall of the Front Palace is Danbojiangchengdian澹泊敬诚殿 (Hall of Frugality and Placidity), also known as Nanmu Hall 楠木殿because it was built of the fine-grained fragrant hardwood called nanmu楠木 (Phoebe nanmu). This kind of nanmu can give off an unusual scent reputed to repel mosquitoes in summer. This simple and graceful-looking structure is exquisitely decorated, with superbly engraved ceilings and partitions. It is here that the Qing emperors once received court ministers and foreign envoys. Sizhishuwu四知书屋 (Literary of the Four “Knows”) is a place where the Emperor would relax before and after holding ceremonies, and only the most important members of the Qing court were permitted to come to have audience with him. In the courtyard outside, ancient cypresses still flourish and their leaves stay green year round.
Yanbozhishuangdian烟波致爽殿 (Hall of Cool Mists and Ripples), the emperors’ bedchamber, is the place where Qing Emperor Xianfeng passed away on his sickbed in 1861. Yunshanshengdilou云山胜地楼 (Hall of the Panorama of Cloud-Covered Mountains) is the last structure of the Front Palace. The skillfully arranged rockeries serve as the staircase leading visitors to the tower, where, looking north, visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the lakes and hills ahead. The Pine-Crane Hall松鹤斋 resembles the Front Palace in architectural layout. It consists of six buildings which are connected by a winding corridor in an integrated whole. The garden-like place was once the residence of empress dowagers. The Pine Soughing Valley万壑松风stands majestically on a tree-covered hill, overlooking the lakes. Qing emperor Qianlong named its main hall Ji’entang纪恩堂 (Hall for Remembering Kindness) to commemorate his study sessions here with his grandfather, Qing emperoer Kangxi. This hall used to be the place where Qing Emperor Kangxi received officials and read and made comments on the memorial submitted by them. The East Palace originally had six buildings, but they were all damaged by fire before 1949.
The buildings in the Palace area are unique in style, quite unlike other gorgeous palaces. Their foundations just like those of ordinary people’s houses, they are simply furnished, unembellished, austere and elegant, harmonizing well with the simplicity of the whole Mountain Resort.
The Lake Area 湖区
The lake area is the key scenic spot of the Mountain Resort. Of the 72 scenic wonders named by Qing emperors Kangxi and Qianlong, 31 are in the lake area. With winding banks, the lake area has a maze of islets linked by causeways and small bridges. The entire place presents a typical South China scene when a breeze rustles the willow trees along the shore and the lotus, reeds and water chestnuts sway over the shoals of fish swimming leisurely in the water. Boat-riding on the lakes, tourists will find their eyes insufficient to take in so many beautiful sights that greet them. The triple Lake-Center Pavilions located at the eastern end of the lake area are perched on a stone bridge and their reflections in the water are a feast for the eye. Wenyuanshizilin文园狮子林(Graceful Lion Garden), linked to the triple Lake-Center Pavilions 水心榭by a causeway, is unique in style. To the east is an islet called Jinshan金山 (Golden Hill). The towers and pavilions are strung out along the shore orderly, connected by a winding corridor. Climbing up the three-tier hexagonal tower and gaze at the hills and lakes far and near, tourists will feel as if they are surrounded by traditional Chinese landscape paintings. In the central part of the lake area is Yuesejiangsheng月色江声 (Hall of Moonlit River), where emperors Kangxi and Qianlong used to study Confucian classics Here the environment is quiet and fresh and green with lotus fragrance and willows. Ruyizhou如意洲 (so named for its similar shape to the Chinese ornamental object Ruyi) is the biggest one in the lake area. Looking to the north, visitors will find Yanyulou烟雨楼 (House of Mists and Rains) perched on Qingliandao青莲岛 (Green Lotus Islet). When it rains, the hills and trees are shrouded in mist—a wonderful sight. It is here that Qing emperor Qianlong used to read and watch the clouds and rain. In the western part of the lake are Fangyuanju芳园居 (Aromatic Garden Residence) and other four scenic spots. The buildings here are small and exquisite and scattered here and there along a winding dyke, adding charm to the entire area.
A Vast Expanse of Grassland 广袤的草原
To the north of the lake lies a vast plain covered with luxuriant grass and trees, where reindeer and hares often roam about. The park is laid out entirely in the Mongolian style, whisking tourists to typical Mongolian grassland. Wanshuyuan万树林(Garden of Ten-Thousand Tress) has a crouching tablet inscribed with the garden’s name in the calligraphy of Emperor Qianlong. It is here that Emperor Qianlong received Mongolian princes, the Panchen Lama of Tibet and the British special envoy, George MaCatney乔治•马戈尔尼. Not far northeast from the garden is Yongyousi永佑寺 (Temple of Perpetual Blessing), the family Temple of Qing emperors, inside of which is an imposing stupa, 66 meters high, with a dazzling gilded copper top. Whenever Emperor Qianlong came to the Mountain Resort, the first thing he did was to come here to offer sacrifices. In the west lies Wenjinge文津阁 (Knowledge Imparting Hall) which, built in the style of the Tianyige Pavilion天一阁 in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, was a book repository of the Qing ruling house.
Picturesque Mountains and Tranquil Valleys 山秀谷幽“雄”、“奇”著称
The northwestern part of the Mountain Resort is all wooded mountains, steep crags and deep valleys, where the scenery varies from season to season. Here, 44 scenic spots, no two are the same, were built during the reigns of emperors Kangxi and Qianlong. Walking along the zigzag Mountain paths to the accompaniment of the soughing of the wind in the pines, the chirping of birds and the murmuring of the streams and tourists will be transported into a haven of peace, far removed from the din and turmoil of the world. About 500 meters in the west from Lishuyu梨树峪(Pear Tree Valley) lies Lihuabanyuegou 梨花伴月沟(Pear Blossoms and Moonlit Ditch). The scenery is especially enchanting in spring time, when myriad of blooming pear trees emit intoxicating aroma and the moon shines through a thin veil of clouds. On top of a Mountain northwest of the resort is Simianyunshanting四面云山亭 (Cloud and Mountain-Encircled Pavilion). Standing in the pavilion, tourists will feel as if clouds and mist surrounded them, and on fine days, they can view the peaks and clouds some 50 kilometers away. North from Zhenziyu榛子峪 (Hazel Dale) is Chuifengluozhaoting锤风落照亭 (Pavilion of the Hammer Peak in the Glow of the Setting Sun), where, in the depth of winter, tourists’ eyes will be greeted by a spectacular northern China scene as they gaze south at the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Grotesque Peaks and Quaint Crags 奇山异石
With its peculiar landform, Chengde is noted for its odd-shaped peaks and crags. Qingchuifeng 磬锤峰(Sledgehammer Peak) is 38-meter-high solitary pinnacle, which stands on a meandering ridge five kilometers to the northeast of Chengde City. The pinnacle, shaped like an inverted sledgehammer, looks ominous, with one end pointing skyward and the other end overlooking a precipitous cliff, and when viewed from afar its solitariness is shown off an advantage against the surrounding peaks tinged red by the glow of a setting sun. On the summit of a southern mountain, just across a valley, is Hamashi蛤蟆石 (Flog Crag), which is like a frog with its head rearing in the pose of making a jump. On the eastern bank of the Wlie River武烈河is Luohanshan 罗汉山(Arhat Hill), so named because it looks like an arhat sitting meditation on the riverside. On a height south of the city is the sky-piercing Sengmaoshan僧帽山(Monk’s Headgear Peak), which takes its name from its shape. Fifteen kilometers in the west are two grotesque pinnacles rising sheer from the ground like two pagodas. Shuangtashan 双塔山(Twin Pagoda Hill), quite by coincidence, is crowned with a tumble down pagoda erected in the Liao Dynasty (907-1125). In addition, there are Guangrenling广仁岭 (Broad Benevolence Ridge), Chaoyangdong 朝阳洞(Sun-Facing Cave), etc., forming the “Ten Scenic Wonders of Chengde” noted for their sublimity, oddness or tranquility以 “雄” “奇”著称 . More interesting is that a lot of legends and myths are attributed to these scenic spots, adding mystery to the landscapes of Chengde.
More About The Hebei Province
- Bashang Grassland Introduction
The Bashang Grassland in Hebei Province is an ideal place to escape the heat in summer.
- Eastern Qing Tomb in Hebei
In Zunhua City, Hebei Province, some 125 kilometers east Beijing, lies a group of imperial tombs of the Qing Dynasty.
- Great Wall in Tangshan
The section of the ruined Great Wall at Tangshan in Hebei Province, about 200 kilometers to northeast Beijing, opened to the tourist in late 2002.
- Western Qing Tombs in Hebei
UNESCO inscribed Qing Dynasty Eastern Tombs in Hebei Zenhua City and Qing Dynasty Western Tombs in Yi County, Hebei Province on the World Heritage List in 2000.
- Chengde Introduction
Chengde is one of the 24 famous historical and cultural cities and one of the 44 major tourist attractions in China.