Chengde Mountain Resort — Picturesque Imperial Garden and Witness of History

Buildings in Natural Landscape of Chengde, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Buildings in Natural Landscape of Chengde, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

What is Chengde Mountain Resort?

 

Chengde Mountain Resort, also named Bishu Shanzhuang or Rehe Xinggong or Li Gong, constructed from 1703 to 1792, is the largest existing imperial garden.

 

Exceptional natural views and important geographical and military importance of the Chengde Mountain Resort attracted emperors to spend long times there, which made it the second political center and witness of histories of half of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912).

 

As a UNESCO World Heritage, the Chengde Mountain Resort holds cultural, political, and historical importance, as well as exceptional aesthetic, architectural values.

 
Danbo Jingcheng Dian, the Main Hall Where Emperors Held Meetings and Ceremonies, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Danbo Jingcheng Dian, the Main Hall Where Emperors Held Meetings and Ceremonies, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Who and Why built the Chengde Mountain Resort?

 

To train armies and strengthen Qing's reign on northern and northwestern territories, the Kangxi Emperor (1654 — 1722) held a grand hunting activity on Mulan Hunting Ground in 1681 and set it as a royal tradition. 

 

The successive emperors then had held 105 big royal hunting there until Daoguang Emperor abolished this tradition in 1821. 

 
Chair Decorated Using the Antlers that Were Hunted by Kangxi Emperor Himself

Chair Decorated Using the Antlers that Were Hunted by Kangxi Emperor Himself — Palace Museum

In 1703, the Kangxi Emperor commanded to build a resort in Rehe, later changed its name to Chengde, as a palace that royals and his troop could live during their huntings. 

 

An important reason was that the royal palace Forbidden City in Beijing was hot in summer. 

 

Moreover, Chengde was a place holds significant military and political values for Qing's reign.

 

Therefore, besides the beautiful palaces, strong defensive walls were constructed surrounding the resort, which also served as a warfare stronghold of the central government.

The 3 Meters Tall, 10,000 Meters Long Outer Walls of the Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

The 3 Meters Tall, 10,000 Meters Long Outer Walls of the Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

Structural and aesthetic designs of the Chengde Mountain Resort.

 

Scattering on east and north mountains, surrounding the Chengde Mountain Resort, are the Eight Outer Temples (Wai Bamiao) that were constructed under command of Kangxi Emperor and Qianlong Emperor, for leaders of minorities to pray and live when they were visiting Qing emperors. 

 

Therefore, those temples were built in styles of Han, Manchu, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, etc., to show respect to different ethnic groups and the unification of the Qing Empire. 

 

The whole Chengde Mountain Resort is divided into four areas: Palace Area, Lake Area, Mountain Area, and Plain Area. 

 

 

Palace Area

 

Palace Area, over 100,000 square meters large, was the place for emperors to live, work, and hold ritual ceremonies. 

 

Today, the main hall of this area is a museum, which preserves over 20,000 pieces of invaluable relics.

Exquisite Dragon Decoration on Roof of Building, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Exquisite Dragon Decoration on Roof of Building, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Lake Area

 

Lake Area, around 469,000 square meters big, is divided into several water areas by 8 beautiful islands. 

 

Because of Kangxi Emperor's love for Jiangnan-style gardens and landscapes, he copied many Jiangnan buildings and designs to the Lake Area of Chengde, such as West Lake, Suzhou Gardens, etc. 

Building Complex and Picturesque Lake of the Chengde Mountain Resort

Building Complex and Picturesque Lake of the Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo by Dongfang Yuxiaoshi.

Plain Area

 

Plain Area, around 607,000 square meters large, mainly consists of grassland and forest. 

 

It was the place where emperors met with minority nobles and foreign envoys and held royal galas and horse racing activities. 

A Royal Banquet at Wanshou Garden of Plain Area of Chengde Mountain Resort

"Wanshouyuan Ciyan Tu" by Lang Shining and Wang Zhicheng in 1754, About A Royal Banquet at Wanshou Garden of Plain Area of Chengde Mountain Resort Hold by Qianlong Emperor, to Welcome Newly Submitted Mongolian Nobles — Palace Museum

Mountain Area

 

Mountain Area, around 4,435,000 square meters big, is the largest area of the Chengde Mountain Resort. 

Towers and Pavillions in Mountain Area of Chengde Mountain Resort

Towers and Pavillions in Mountain Area, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Important histories happened in the Chengde Mountain Resort.

 

From 1703 to 1713, Chengde Mountain Resort was firstly constructed under the command of the Kangxi Emperor, who named 36 sceneries of this beautiful imperial garden and visited here 50 times. 

 
Plaque of Front Door of Chengde Mountain Resort Written by Kangxi Emperor, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Plaque of Front Door of Chengde Mountain Resort Written by Kangxi Emperor, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

In 1711, Qianlong Emperor was born there (another version was in the Mansion of Prince Yong).

 

From 1741 to 1792, Chengde Mountain Resort was renovated and expanded under the command of the Qianlong Emperor, who named another 36 sceneries and paid visits there 54 times. 

Guangyuan Palace Constructed Under Command of Qianlong Emperor, Modeled on Bixiayuanjun Temple on Mount Tai, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Guangyuan Palace Constructed Under Command of Qianlong Emperor, Modeled on Bixiayuanjun Temple on Mount Tai, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Jiaqing Emperor (1760 — 1820) spent summer in Chengde Mountain Resort 19 times and passed away here. 

 

During Daoguang Emperor's reign (1821 — 1850), the annual royal hunting tradition was officially abolished. He commanded to preserve and transport valuable articles in Chengde Mountain Resort back to capital city Beijing, and stopped spending summers there. 

 

Afterward, the fabulous Chengde Mountain Resort gradually fell into disuse.

Wooden Bridge and Boats on Lake of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

Wooden Bridge and Boats on Lake of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

In 1860, when the Anglo-French Allied Forces were approaching Beijing, Xianfeng Emperor escaped to Chengde Mountain Resort. 

 

After the Anglo-French Allied Forces occupied Beijing and burnt down the old Summer Palace, Xianfeng Emperor signed a series of uneven treaties in Chengde.

Winter View of Yanyu Lou of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

Winter View of Yanyu Lou of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

In 1861, Xianfeng Emperor passed away in Chengde Mountain Resort, then his queen, now the Empress Dowager Cixi, conspired a coup there, through which she obtained paramount of power and started her over half a century's reign (1861 — 1908). 

 

Since this coup till Qing Dynasty was ended in 1912, Qing's royals didn't visit Chengde Mountain Resort again.

Flowers and Ancient Buildings of Chengde Mountain Resort

Flowers and Ancient Buildings of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

In the next few decades, from Qing's last reign period to Japan's invasion, the resort encountered big destructions and huge loss of invaluable relics. 

 

In 1961, Chengde Mountain Resort and nearby temples were officially listed as important cultural relics and put under national protection, since when more efforts and money have been invested in fixing and renovating this imperial garden.

Zhijingyun Causeway of Chengde Mountain Resort

Zhijingyun Causeway of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site of Chengde.

Basic Data of Chengde Mountain Resort.

 

  • The Chengde Mountain Resort is in Hebei Province, the north of China;

  • It is about 5,640,000 square meters large, with over 20,000 valuable cultural relics preserve inside;

  • There are 72 scenic views in the Chengde Mountain Resort, which were named by Kangxi Emperor and Qianlong Emperor (36 each);

  • The total construction area of Chengde Mountain Resort is over 100,000 square meters, including about 120 building complexes, 90 pavilions, 29 bridges, etc.;

  • The outer walls of Chengde Mountain Resort are around 3 meters high and 10,000 meters long;

  • Chengde Mountain Resort is a perfect combination of northern and southern classical garden styles, royal and intellectuals' aesthetics. 

 
Artful Building, Bridge, and Rockery Scattering in Beautiful Nature, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.

Artful Building, Bridge, and Rockery Scattering in Beautiful Nature, Photo from Official Site of Chengde Mountain Resort.