Chengde Mountain Resort
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The Chengde Mountain Resort is also known under a variety of other names such as Chengde Summer Palace, Chengde Summer Villa, Rehe Temporary Palace or Rehe Imperial Palace. Chinese people generally refer to it as Bishu Shanzhuang or Ligong (Li Palace). As a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a must-see attraction for travelers that are interested in Chinese culture and history. Construction of the Chengde Mountain Resort took about 90 years from 1703 to 1792 during the time of the Qing Dynasty. It occupies a huge area of about 564 square kilometers and was built as a summer hangout for the Qing imperial family away from Beijing's blistering summer heat. Chengde's pleasant climate and appealing natural scenery made it an ideal spot for this purpose. Numerous palatial structures are dispersed throughout the resort that also includes the largest imperial garden in China.
The resort area is divided into four parts: a Palace Area, Lake Area, Plain Area and Mountain Area. The Palace Area is where the Qing imperial family lived and where the emperors handled their political affairs during their summers in Chengde. It covers a surface of about 100,000 square meters in the southern part of the Chengde Mountain Resort. The four main palatial complexes in the Palace Area are the Main Palace, the Pine-Crane Hall, the East Palace and the Pine Soughing Valley. The Main Palace is nowadays used as the Mountain Resort Museum. During the reign of the Qing emperors, it had been used as a place for important ceremonies and events. The Pine-crane Hall had been built by the Qianlong Emperor for his empress-mother. Of the former East Palace, only the groundwork remains visible since a fire devastated this compound in 1945. The Pine Soughing Valley had been used as the Qing Emperors' political office and reading room.
The Lake Area to the north of the Palace Area is made up of eight lakes which are named Cheng Lake, Mirror Lake, Ruyi Lake, Upper Lake, Lower Lake, Silver Lake, Half-moon Lake and Inner Lake. The lakes are dotted with islands and islets and some are interconnected.
Further north of the Lake Area you will come to the Plain Area. This area is quite vast and covered with thick grass and old trees. Adventurous visitors could rent a horse here to ride over the grassland in the western part of it. A garden area with many trees is located in the eastern part and a group of temples occupy the northern part of the Plain Area.
The largest area of the Chengde Summer Palace is the Mountain Area. It occupies about 80% of the total resort surface in its northwestern part. Four valleys named Filbert Valley, Pine Valley, Pear Valley and Pine-cloud Valley cut through this terrain from north to south. You will see deer roaming around here (the emperor's former hunting grounds) that are not shy about coming in contact with humans! Interspersed among the mountain slopes and valleys are various pavilions, temples and other buildings.
After you have visited the Chengde Imperial Mountain Resort, better stay in Chengde for at least another day to check out the Outlying Temples. These are 12 Buddhist temples of different architectural styles that were built in succession between 1713 and 1780.