WHS: Mountain Resort, Chengde, China

Alright, now we’ve covered all the World Heritage Sites in the immediate Beijing neighborhood, and we’re finishing up China — until our next visit! — with a few daytrips that you can do from a Beijing base; today we’re heading some four hours northwest, to the:

Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde

Mountain Resort

 

The Mountain Resort of palaces and gardens at Chengde with its Outlying Temples is the largest existing imperial palace-garden and temple complex in China, covering a total area of 611.2ha. Built between 1703 and 1792 as the Qing emperors’ detached summer palace near the imperial Mulan hunting ground 350 kilometres from Beijing, it was a base from which to strengthen administration in the border regions. The 12 outlying imperial temples, some built in the architectural styles of the ethnic minorities, are distributed across the eastern and northern hills outside the palace and garden area. They fostered relations with the ethnic minorities and helped to safeguard the Mountain Resort. Every summer and autumn, emperors of the Qing dynasty including Kangxi and Qianlong handled military and government affairs of the country and received leaders of ethnic minority groups and diplomatic envoys from foreign countries here, and went north from here to hold the Mulan Autumn Hunting. Important historical events of the Qing dynasty took place here, and the historical sites and objects have witnessed the consolidation and development of China as a unitary multi-ethnic state.

The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde is a classic masterpiece of Chinese palace architecture, gardening art and religious architecture.The landscape of the Mountain Resort is designed following the topography of natural hills and water. As an outstanding example of Chinese natural landscape gardens and palaces, it inherits and carries forward China’s imperial gardening tradition. By integrating elements of Han, Mongolian and Tibetan architectural art and culture the Outlying Temples crystallize the achievements of cultural exchanges and integration among different ethnic groups in the course of development of Chinese architecture.

The manmade landscape of the Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples perfectly integrates with the special natural environment of Chengde, such as the  danxia landform. Its natural and harmonious layout is a successful practice of the traditional Chinese geomantic culture (fengshui). As a representative of ancient Chinese garden design, it once exerted influence in Europe, and has played an important role in the history of 18th century landscape garden design worldwide…

The maps there claim this is the world’s largest imperial garden,

Mountain Resort

… which is also claimed by the Summer Palace, so we’re not quite sure how they both can be, but hey see both and you’ll definitely have the title covered then!

There is the palace in residence to tour there with the local throneroom and a museum with some relics and all,

Mountain Resort

but they’re not overly impressive if you’ve been to the Forbidden City as you definitely should have — the main reason to come out here is to relax in the parkland and wander around the lake, or like the other umpteen million Chinese visiting with you take a paddleboat ride:

Mountain Resort

The lead picture up there is a watchtower found on one of the central islands, which you’ll pass through on the way to the north end of the lake where the workers’ village was, which was actually prettier than the palace portion we thought, with water wheels and bridges and all:

Mountain Resort

And as you round the lake you’ll find various lotus pools which are quite attractive indeed:

Mountain Resort

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Air and train aren’t particularly convenient to get out here, an early morning bus from Sihui Long-distance Bus Station is your best bet and taking one back will get you to Beijing about in time for a late supper. Definitely an A-list site to consider seriously in your Beijing visit plans!

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Alex Curylo

Alex

I go places.

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