230km north-east of Beijing, away from the smog amongst more green and mountainous surroundings lies a prefecture-level city called Chengde. Chengde is best known for it’s Qing Dynasty Mountain Resort. This is where the Qing Emperors spent many of their summer months, surrounded by trees and lakes escaping the oppressive heat of the Forbidden City. The palace grounds are situated in a mountainside park which, like the Forbidden city, makes up the centre of the city. They served as a retreat for the Emperor, his guards, guests, wives and concubines from the hunting grounds established on the Mongolian grasslands.
The main palace where the Emperor received guests, held ceremonies and had his private chambers were modelled on those of the Forbidden City. Other areas of the resort are modelled on various scenic spots around China, such as the water gardens of the south of China and the grassland plains of the north.
The Outlying Temples dotted around the Mountain Resort are also modelled on other traditional architectural styles, such as Tibetan and Mongolian lamaseries.
Both the hunting grounds and the Outlying Temples were created in part to overlook and control the northern borders as well as to appease the minority peoples by building in their architectural styles. Unfortunately we had run out of time to explore the temples after strolling through the imperial gardens, wanting to push on with our trip. However on this Great Ride of China tour we will be experiencing many of the original minority architectural examples first-hand, so we didn’t feel too bad skipping the temples at this time.
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