The Mountain Resort, also known as Chengde Li Palace or Rehe Temporary Imperial Palace, is situated in the northern part of Chengde, Hebei Province. Chengde Mountain Resort is the biggest ancient imperial palace in existence in China and a veritable museum of ancient Chinese garden of culture and horticulture. It is used to be the summer resort and hunting ground for the Qing emperors.
Situated 250km to the northeast of Beijing, Chengde is endowed with a picturesque landscape and a pleasant climate. In summer the weather is especially cool. With the beauty of the lakes, plains, highlands and mountains, Chengde was an ideal site for imperial gardens.
Started in 1703, the construction of the Mountain Resort lasted for 89 years. The resort covers an area of 5,641,000 square meters, twice as big as the Summer Palace in Beijing and eight times as big as the Beihai Park. The winding palace wall, reminiscent of the Great Wall, is 10km long and 13km wide. This massive estate is where the Qing court would migrate during the summer days to escape from Beijing’s oven-like summers. During the Qing Dynasty, seven emperors had visited the Mountain Resort so much so that Chengde had become the second political center of China.
The whole resort complex consists of palace quarter and scenery quarter.
The palace quarter, made up of 120 groups of ancient architecture, is where the Qing emperors lived, conducted state affairs and held grand ceremonies. The buildings in the palace quarter are unique in style, quite unlike other gorgeous palaces. Their foundations are 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 main palace buildings are Front Palace, Pine-Crane Hall, East Palace and their annexes.
The scenery quarter is divided into three parts: lake area in the southeast, plain area in the northeast and mountain area in the northwest, which may well be regarded as a microcosm of the charming landscape of China. It was here that the emperors would watch archery display and indulge in hunting expeditions. The whole scenery quarter is especially enchanting in spring time.
The lake area is the focus of the scenery quarter, including nine lakes and ten islets. With winding banks, the lake area has a maze of islets linked by causeways and small bridges, presenting a typical South China scene. Boat-riding on the lakes, you will find your eyes insufficient to take in so many beautiful sights.
To the north of the lake lies a vast plain covered with luxuriant grass and trees, where reindeer and hares often roam about. The plain area is laid out entirely in the Mongolian style, whisking you to typical Inner Mongolian grassland.
The northwestern part of the Mount Resort is all wooded mountains, steep crags and deep valleys, where the scenery varies from season to season. 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, you will be transported into a haven of peace, far removed from the turmoil of the world.
Outside the walls of the Mountain Resort, 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 Eight Outer Temples. Among them, the Temple of the Potarak Doctrine (Putuozongshengmiao) is the largest, occupying an area of 220,000 square meters. With rows of buildings rising at different levels from the south upwards, the temple is a copy of the Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
The Mountain Resort, acclaimed as a masterpiece of innovation, is the integration of the cream of garden architecture and civil engineering techniques in ancient China. The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994.