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Hebei province: a tourist destination not to be missed

2013-11-12 16:58:46

(China Today)


Chengde Mountain Resort and Temples

Chengde Mountain Resort sits in northern Chengde City. As the imperial summer resort where Qing emperors handled state affairs on vacation, it stood witness to many major events of the monarchy, hence serving as a valuable resource for research into this period of history. This regal complex, 230 kilometers from Beijing, was built over 90 years, starting in 1703, during the reigns of three emperors. It stands out among China’s royal palaces for its unadorned natural mountain and river surroundings and unrivaled size. It is twice the size of the Summer Palace in Beijing. Over 120 architectural complexes with distinctive Eastern charm loom amid lush woods on rolling mountains and by meandering rivers, constituting a traditional landscape painting.

The whole resort involves two parts: the palace zone; and the natural environment zone, with lakes, plains and mountains. The water body is divided by dams and islets into five parts connected by bridges. Buildings on the shore are artistically aligned with unmistakable loan elements from classical designs of southern provinces.

Meadows and shrubs make up the plain area. It was once the site of Wanshu or “10,000 Trees” Garden and 28 Mongolian yurts of different sizes, of which the biggest was 24 meters in diameter, being the emperor’s temporary palace to welcome nobles, high officials of different nationalities, religious leaders, and foreign envoys.

West and north of this resort are mountain areas with extensive tree cover, where the temperature is four to five degrees lower than in downtown Chengde. It offers a chance to escape the heat and bustle of modern life.

The Eight Outer Temples near the Chengde Mountain Resort is the largest royal temple complex in the world. Qing emperors spent great amounts on building it as a blessing for national security and stability. There are actually 12 temples. As eight were directly administered by the Qing Court of Colonial Affairs in Beijing, they were collectively referred to as the Eight Outer Temples. The 10,000 Buddhist statues and ritual artifacts have been well preserved and worshiped. The temples adopted architectural features from different ethnic cultures in China, such as Manchu, Han, Tibetan and Uygur, embodying national integration and solidarity and displaying the openness and creativity of 18th century Chinese architects.

These temples and the Mountain Resort were added to UNESCO’s list of World Cultural Heritage sites in 1994.

Puning (Universal Peace) Temple is the most typical of this cluster – the first built in Chengde by Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) in reverence of Tibetan Buddhism. It served as a link between the central government and Tibetans, Mongolians and other ethnic groups in the border areas. It was also the headquarters of the chief abbot who supervises all the lamaseries in Chengde, as designated by the emperor. Puning Temple hence holds value as being more than a religious shrine, featuring political, architectural and artistic endowments.

Putuo Zongsheng Temple was modeled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Putuo Zongsheng is a Chinese transliteration of Tibetan “Potala,” and is therefore nicknamed the Minor Potala Palace. It was built by the mountains and followed Tibetan architectural styles, evident in the false decorative windows, the white buildings of flat tops and arched gates, and the bell-shaped Lama pagodas. While constructed along an axis, the symmetrical design and the rings of courtyards connect closely to represent Han architectural features.

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