Chengde Mountain Resort — Picturesque Imperial Garden and Witness of History
Chengde Mountain Resort, the largest existing imperial garden, is also known as Bishu Shanzhuang, Rehe Xinggong, or Li Gong. It was constructed from 1703 to 1792.
The exceptional natural views, along with its significant geographical and military value, attracted emperors to spend extended periods there.
This made it the second political center and a witness to half of the history of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912).
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Chengde Mountain Resort holds cultural, political, and historical importance, along with exceptional aesthetic and architectural values.
Buildings in Natural Landscape of Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site.
Danbo Jingcheng Dian, Main Hall For Emperors to Hold Meetings and Rites, Photo from Official Site.
Who and Why Built the Chengde Mountain Resort
To train armies and strengthen Qing's reign in 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 held 105 big royal hunting there until the Daoguang Emperor abolished this tradition in 1821.
Chair Decorated Using the Antlers that Were Hunted by Kangxi Emperor Himself — Palace Museum
In 1703, the Kangxi Emperor commanded the construction of a resort in Rehe, which later changed its name to Chengde.
It served as a palace where royals and their troops could live during their hunting trips.
An important reason was that Beijing's royal palace Forbidden City was hot in summer.
Moreover, Chengde held significant military and political values during 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.
3 Meters Tall, 10,000 Meters Long Outer Walls of the Chengde Mountain Resort, Photo from Official Site.
Structural, Architectural, and Aesthetic Designs of Chengde Mountain Resort
Eight Outer Temples of Chengde
These temples were intended for leaders of minorities to pray and live when visiting Qing emperors.
Therefore, the temples were built in the styles of Han, Manchu, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, etc., to show respect for different ethnic groups and the unification of the Qing Empire.
Chengde Mountain Resort is Divided into Four Areas: Palace Area, Lake Area, Mountain Area, and Plain 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 that preserves over 20,000 pieces of invaluable relics.
Exquisite Dragon Decoration on Roof of Building, Photo from Official Site.
Lake Area, around 469,000 square meters big, is divided into several water areas by eight beautiful islands.
Building Complex and Picturesque Lake, Photo by Dongfang Yuxiaoshi.
Plain Area, around 607,000 square meters large, mainly consists of grassland and forest.
It was where emperors met with minority nobles and foreign envoys and held royal galas and horse racing activities.
"Wanshouyuan Ciyan Tu" by Lang Shining and Wang Zhicheng in 1754, About A Royal Banquet at Wanshou Garden of Plain Area Hold by Qianlong Emperor, to Welcome Newly Submitted Mongolian Nobles — Palace Museum
Mountain Area, around 4,435,000 square meters big, is the largest area of the Chengde Mountain Resort.
Pagoda and Pavillions in Mountain Area, Photo from Official Site.
Important Historical Events at Chengde Mountain Resort
From 1703 to 1713, Chengde Mountain Resort was first 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.
In 1711, Qianlong Emperor was born there (another version was in the Mansion of Prince Yong).
From 1741 to 1792, the resort was renovated and expanded under the command of the Qianlong Emperor, who named another 36 sceneries and paid visits there 54 times.
Jiaqing Emperor (1760 — 1820) spent summer in the resort 19 times and passed away here.
During Daoguang Emperor's reign (1821 — 1850), the annual royal hunting tradition was officially abolished.
He commanded the preservation and transport of valuable articles in the resort back to the capital city Beijing and stopped spending summers there.
Afterward, the fabulous Imperial Resort gradually fell into disuse.
Wooden Bridge and Boats on Lake, Photo from Official Site.
In 1860, when the Anglo-French Allied Forces were approaching Beijing, the Xianfeng Emperor escaped to Chengde Mountain Resort.
After the Anglo-French Allied Forces occupied Beijing and burnt down the old Summer Palace, the Xianfeng Emperor signed a series of uneven treaties here.
Winter View of Yanyu Lou, Photo from Official Site.
In 1861, the Xianfeng Emperor passed away in Chengde Mountain Resort.
His queen, now Empress Dowager Cixi, conspired a coup there, through which she obtained supreme power and started her over half a century's reign (1861 — 1908).
From this coup, till the Qing Dynasty ended in 1912, Qing royals didn't revisit the resort.
Flowers and Ancient Buildings, Photo from Official Site.
In the next few decades, from Qing's last reign to Japan's invasion, the resort encountered enormous destruction and massive loss of invaluable relics.
In 1961, Chengde Mountain Resort and nearby temples were officially listed as important cultural relics and placed under national protection.
Since then, efforts and funds have been invested in fixing and renovating this imperial garden.
Zhijingyun Causeway, Photo from Official Site.
Chengde Mountain Resort Facts and Important Data
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 preserved inside.
There are 72 scenic views in the resort, which were named by the Kangxi Emperor and Qianlong Emperor (36 each).
Its total construction area is over 100,000 square meters, including about 120 building complexes, 90 pavilions, 29 bridges, etc.
The outer walls are around 3 meters high and 10,000 meters long.
Chengde Mountain Resort perfectly combines northern and southern classical garden styles and royal and intellectual aesthetics.
Artful Building, Bridge, and Rockery Scattering in Beautiful Nature, Photo from Official Site.
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