Once known more commonly as Rehe or Jehol to the Europeans, the vibrant city of Chengde in Hebei Province makes for a fantastic place to explore for a few days when you are holidaying in China. This travel guide to Chengde will explain why millions of visitors make their way to this beautiful area of China.
Chengde is a famous and ancient city but it started to really come into its own during the Qing Dynasty. The Manchu royalty would holiday here in the summer when the heat would become oppressive in Beijing, the nation’s capital. When they reached here, they could pursue traditional Manchu pastimes, such as hunting, and relax.
But it was due to one emperor, Qianlong, which Chengde flourished and became a beacon for all ethnic groups in and around China. He had a great many temples dedicated to the different faiths of the various minority peoples to create a peaceful and lasting relationship between them and the Manchu government. Visitors are always shocked by the intentions and beauty these temples were erected for.
Bishu Shanzhuang is the summer resort of the Manchu emperors, their home away from the Forbidden City in China. This isn’t just one building – it is a complex made up of several buildings, pavilions, temples and gardens, all surrounded by a 10km long wall.
You enter the main palace building via Lizheng Gate and always manage to make visitors gasp with astonishment. Nine courtyards with five halls left unpainted make up this part of the resort and the scent from the pine trees growing throughout makes it almost seem unreal. You will find a vast array of porcelain, weaponry, clothing and furniture to capture your imagination.
Exit the main palace building and you will find yourself in the gardens, which also served as the hunting grounds where the Manchu emperors and his party would hunt for game in the traditional Manchu way. Inspiration for these was taken from gardens all over China including Hangzhou, Suzhou and Mongolia. Although the gardens have taken on a slight ‘contemporary’ feel to them, the gardens are much the same as they were centuries ago.
Many other buildings grace the palace grounds including the Misty tower (Yanju Lou), Wenjin Pavilion (Wenjin Ge) and the Yongyoushi Pagoda. Each of these places holds a unique place in the palace history and was created for a specific purpose, as well as rewarding visitors with spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Eight Outer Temples:
Situated on the east and northern parts of the palace grounds are the remarkable Eight Outer Temples (wai ba miao). These are perhaps the second most popular tourist attraction in Chengde. Emperor Qianlong had 12 temples created for diplomatic reasons to help strengthened his relationships with various minority groups in and around China. Only eight temples now survive and are a beautiful combination of Chinese and Tibetan architecture which never fails to wow visitors.
Temples are a popular tourist attraction and Chengde has loads to choose from. A trip to the Temple of Sumeru, Happiness and Longevity will amaze you with its incredible beauty. The temple was built during the Qing Dynasty as a means to honour the sixth Panchen Lama who visited Chengde in 1781. Eight stunning dragons grace the roof and watch all who enter the temple.
Pule Temple and others:
In 1776 another temple was commissioned, this time to honour the various ethnic groups which came to visit the Manchu emperors. It is incredibly serene, making you forget about the cares of the outside world. Other temples well worth a visit include Shuxiang temple, the Anyuan temple and the Puren Temple, the latter being the oldest temple in Chengde.
As well as being an incredibly beautiful city in China, Chengde is also a very popular place for visitors to visit. The summer palace is one of China’s top ten attractions but the other attractions should not be missed.