Summer Residence and Temple Near Chengde (World Heritage)
In Chengde, 250 km northeast of Beijing, there is a complex of imperial palaces and temples, administrative buildings and gardens. The former summer residence of the Qing rulers was built in the 18th century. With an area of almost 6 km², Chengde was the largest imperial park complex in China according to payhelpcenter.
Chengde Summer Residence and Temple: Facts
|Official title:||Summer residence and temples near Chengde|
|Cultural monument:||In the former Jehol, today’s Chengde – the name means “acquiring virtue” – located complex of temples such as “Temple of Universal Love” (Pu Ren Si), “Temple of Universal Goodness” (Pu Shan Si) and “Temple of the Universals” Joy «(Pu Le Si) and the residence of the Qing rulers, the summer palace Bi Shu Shan Zhuang and Wen Jin pavilion, originally an imperial library with more than 36,000 volumes|
|Location:||Chengde, northeast of Beijing|
|Meaning:||one of the few historical testimonies from the late period of feudal China|
Chengde Summer Residence and Temple: History
|1662-1722||Reign of Emperor Kangxi|
|1703-90||Construction of the summer residence|
|1713-80||Construction of the Great Temple|
|1723-36||Reign of Emperor Yongzheng|
|1736-96||Reign of Emperor Qianlong|
|1764||Construction of the “Temple for the Pacification of Afar”|
|1767-71||Construction of the so-called »Little Potala«|
|1775||Construction of the “Temple of Universal Peace”, also known as the “Great Buddha Temple”|
|1820||Emperor Jiaqing (Qing Renzong) in Jehol (Chengde) was fatally struck by lightning|
|1840-42||First opium war|
|1856-60||Second opium war|
|1860||Emperor Xianfeng (Qing Wenzong) escapes from Beijing to Chengde|
Where China’s emperors took a cure in the summer
It must have been an equally grandiose and terrifying procession that started on October 5, 1861 in the imperial summer palace of Jehol. 120 servants shouldered the huge golden bier on which the remains of the Son of Heaven were to be carried to his capital. Less than a year earlier, the Chinese ruler had left Beijing to bring himself and his court to safety from the “foreign devils” who stood at the gates of his metropolis as a result of the Second Opium War.
Emperor Qing Wenzong, who was only 30 years old – probably because of his dissolute lifestyle – was the last of the Chinese emperors to live in this summer residence. Later heirs of the Manchu dynasty avoided this place as they saw the untimely death of their ancestor as a bad omen.
It is also said to have been an emperor who discovered the picturesque area on the “Warm River” (“Jehol”). During a hunting trip, Qing Shengzu, the much-vaunted Emperor Kangxi, came across a basin 350 meters above sea level, which was bordered by forested hills and a lake plateau. The emperor noticed that the air was much fresher here than in his hot and humid capital, so he decided to have a palace built here. At the beginning of the 18th century, an imperial residence was built, which was given the beautiful name “Bi Shu Shan Zhuang” – “Mountain castle where you can escape the summer heat”.
From then on, Kangxi did this regularly, and both his son and grandson, Emperor Qianlong, who had the refuge completed, heeded what the founder had demanded in a decree: The summer refuge should also be a “conciliatory gesture towards the ethnic groups and a place to receive important guests. ”
Emissaries from all parts of the vast empire were regularly invited to the summer resort. At the Lizheng Gate, the entrance to the main palace, there is still an inscription in Chinese, Manchurian, Mongolian, Tibetan and Uighur, a testament to the fact that China was a multi-ethnic state even then.
Surrounded by a ten kilometer long wall, Jehol, which is now called Chengde, is the largest imperial palace complex in China. It is not the sheer size that impresses, but the overall arrangement, an artful composition of nature and architecture, whose charm has already been revealed to its illustrious guests in the past: pavilions and pagodas, curved bridges and shady arcades blend into a park landscape with lakes , Streams and ancient trees. The fact that the extensive garden is thematically structured and designed shows how much the Chinese rely on symbolism. The lake landscape is supposed to remind of the area south of the Yangze, the plain of the Mongolian steppe and the adjoining hill country of central China.
Beyond the palace walls it juts purple, gold or pink out of the green of the hills. Though sublime, but still humble, temples are arranged around the imperial center. The Manchu rulers had eleven of them built, seven have been preserved to this day. Many of these cult buildings have Tibetan elements in their architecture; one is even a copy of the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa. The majestic building, also called “Little Potala”, was more than just a birthday present for the Qianlong Emperor. This largest of all temple complexes in Chengde was also built to appease the subjects in the far west who had been brought into the empire by force.
When Qing Wenzong succumbed to his alcohol and drug consumption in Jehol’s palace in 1861, one of his playmates managed to seize the imperial seal without any law coming into force – a palace intrigue with consequences that began in Chengde: Thanks to this move, the clever concubine became the most powerful woman in the country. For more than four decades, Cixi ruled as the mother of the empress – and by no means for the good of the huge empire.