Yes, Chengde – not Chengdu… no you will not see Pandas there.
Yes, the palace used to be the summer escape for generations of Emperors and… YES, now it could be your weekend escape from Beijing.
It took 89 years and 3 generations of Emperors to finish the entire Summer Palace along with its massive grounds, also called Chengde Mountain Resort. No wonder it is the largest imperial palace in the world!
Despite its grand size, the Mountain Resort seems so tranquil and in touch with its surroundings. Built in the typical Chinese style, the palace comprises of numerous smaller structures, seemingly blending with nature. The color spectrum is the opposite of the Forbidden Palace where bright yellow, red, blue and green dominate the eye. In contrast, the Palace in Chengde is more natural, earthy colors and emphasis on the surrounding natural beauty.
The grounds are fascinating in both size and landscape mastery. They emulate the country’s territory and the diverse nature – mountainous North-West, plain North-East and Southern Lakes… or as they say…
“within the Villa, travel the China”
There are exquisite views to admire – 72 of which have been specifically named by Emperors Kanxi and Qianlong and are now known as the “72 scenic spots” – all modeled after famous sceneries around China.
This massive estate represents not only the geographical diversity of the country but also China’s ethnic diversity. The surrounding Temple Complex is a perfect example of how minority cultures co-exist to form one country. It is a unique combination of architectural styles respecting regional traits and representing the unique heritage of each.
For example: You don’t have time to travel to Tibet? Just visit the little Potala in Chengde and get a taste of Tibetan architecture and style. This temple is the largest of the eight and was built for the visit of Panchen Lama VI, the political and religious leader of Tibet, who came to Chengde to celebrate the 45th birthday of emperor Qianlong.
If you have a couple of extra days, then venture north in the steps of the emperors to visit the Mulan Autumn Hunting Grounds. The Imperial Hunt was one of the most important annual events during the Qing Dynasty period. It combined Manchu and Mongolian hunting traditions and was used by the emperors as a military exercise. The emperor himself participated in the hunting along with court officials, family members and thousands of soldiers. The time of the hunt was also a time to go back to the Manchu roots and way of life. The imperial court and all participants lived in yurts emulating the distribution of the Forbidden Palace. They conducted diplomacy and constantly communicated with the Chenge Summer Palace and Beijing. The Mulan Hunting was time to train, connect with allies and get back to tradition. The hunting grounds themselves were, and still are, a gorgeous land worth of admiration and exploration.
Planning your trip? Here are the Top 5 Places to Visit in Chengde.