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The Temples of Chengde
Outside the walls of the Chengde Imperial Dwelling Palace, temples in the Tibetan, Han and Mongolian styles are found scattered among the nearby hills. Built on a larger scale than any of the temples of Beijing, they are collectively known as the Eight Temples Beyond the Great Wall (Waibamiao); In fact, there were originally 11 temples, of which only seven now remain.

The temples were built between the years 1713 and 1780 under emperors Kangxi and Qianlong, and are clustered along the northern and eastern sides of the Imperial Palace. Apart from the Temple of Universal Benevolence (Purensi) and the Temple of Universal Goodness (Pushansi), built under the Qianlong reign, are so designed that their main gates face the Imperial Dwelling Palace. The significance of this is obvious-the Eight Temples symbolize the various ethnic groups from all parts of China directing their loyalty toward the center of authority. Emperor Qianlong expressed this concept in his poem One Hundred Rhymes from the Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat:"These buildings embody the successful uniting of the hearts of the people of the inner and outer lands."Following this belief, the palaces, halls and gardens erected under Qianlong' s direction stress the use of architecture to embody the theme of national unity.

A climb tot eh Snow-Capped Southern Mountain (Nanshanjixue) Pavilion offers a fine view of the entire temple complex. Here can be found duplicates of the three temples to Maya (the mother of Buddha), the Potala, and the Tashilumpo Temple in Tibet and the Gu'erzha Temple in Xinjiang. These represent China's northwest and southwest. The Temple of the Image of Manjusri (Shuxiangsi) of Wutai Mountain in Shanxi, and the Hall of the Immortals in the Temple of National Peace (Anguosi) in Haining in Zhejiang have also been duplicated and represent the north and south.

Although each of the buildings has its own individual style, the overall pattern is one of harmony and unity, and whether we view the temples from the angle of overall layout or from that of the structure of the individual buildings, the Eight Temples Beyond the Great Wall are models of architectural excellence. The four principal temples are described below:

1. The Temple of Sumeru Happiness and Longevity (Xumifushoumiao). This temple was built by Emperor Qianlong in 1780 after the model of the Tibetan Tashilunpo Temple at Xigaze, and its name is a direct translation of the Tibetan name"Temple of Complete Happiness and Longevity."The year 1780 was the 70th birthday of Emperor Qianlong, so the celebrations were held on a larger scale than usual. In addition to the Mongolian nobles and princes, imperial ministers and their retainers, and foreign envoys that attended the celebrations, the Sixth Panchen Lama Erdeni also came from Tibet to pay his respects. To receive his distinguished guest in style. Emperor Qianlong had the temple especially constructed.

The halls and pavilions built on the massive Great Red Terrace (Dahongtai) are the temple's most important buildings, and are well preserved up to the present day. From the top of the Great Red Terrace, the gilded bronze tile roof of the Main Hall can be viewed from close quarters and the exquisite craftsmanship of the eight gilded dragons standing on the roof ridges can be appreciated in their entire splendor.

The Great Red Terrace is comprised of buildings on three levels with the square-shaped Exalted and Dignified Hall (Miaogaozhuangyandian) in the central position. The Main Hall (Dadian) is constructed in three stories, each decorated with images of the Buddha. Inside the narrow courtyard, which separates the towering buildings, one enters what seems like a new world, and inside the Main Hall the refined atmosphere is most appropriate for the worship of the Buddha. According to tradition, when the Panchen Lama recited scriptures here in 1780, the emperor was present and every single priest and official prostrated himself to avoid setting eyes on the emperor. The Main Hall was absolutely silent save for the quite incantations of the Panchen Lama.

While the Panchen Lama was in Chengdu, Emperor Qianlong treated him with the utmost of politeness and cordiality and the story of their meeting has been handed down through the centuries. In the first month of 1779, the Panchen Lama set out from Lhasa leading a party of three kanhu (high priest-officials) and over 100 priests. Emperor Qianlong sent his sixth son and a Mongolian Living Buddha, Zhang Jia, to meet the Sixth Panchen Lama, who traveled to the imperial Dwelling Palace in a large yellow sedan chair.

Qianlong received the Panchen Lama in the Hall of Rectitude and Sincerity (Danbojingchengdian) and after presenting the emperor with a welcome gift of a silk hada cloth; the Lama knelt down before him. But Qianlong immediately left his feet, and hurried to raise the Buddhist leader to his feet, and in his best newly learned Tibetan, asked the Lama if the long trip had been very arduous for him. The Lama replied that with His Majesty's grace reaching out to him from afar, his journey had been peaceful and pleasant from beginning to end. After the formal greeting ceremonies, the emperor had a private audience with the Panchen Lama in the Library of the Four"Knows"(Sizhishuwu),and entertained him with a feast of tea and fruits. After the feast Emperor Qianlong once more broke court convention by personally inviting the Panchen Lama into the rear palaces to visit the Hall of Cool Mists and Ripples (Yanbozhishuang)-the emperor's sleeping quarters, the Hall of the Panorama of Cloud-Covered Mountains (yunshanshengdidian) and so on. Afterwards the Buddhist leader left the palace via the Hill Cloud Gate (Xiuyunmen), and riding in a yellow-topped sedan chair presented to him by the emperor, toured the emperor's garden, stopping briefly on the Ruyi Islat-an island in the garden lake-before proceeding to his lodging in the Auspicious Hall of the Buddhist Doctrine (Jixiangfaxidian) in the Temple of Sumeru Happiness and Longevity (Xumifushoumiao).

On the emperor's 70th birthday, the Panchen Lama and the Living Buddha Zhang Jia led the kanbu lamas to the Hall of Rectitude and Sincerity. Here Emperor Qianlong joined hands with the Panchen Lama and they walked together to the throne, where Erdeni presented the emperor with a set of Buddhist sacramental objects and a birthday portrait as well as offered a congratulatory speech. The highlight of the celebration was when the kenbu rose together and sang in praise of the emperor's long life.

During the Panchen Lama's stay in Chengde, Emperor Qianlong presented him with a golden book and a golden seal. The seal, carved with Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan scripts, was inscribed"Seal presented to the Panchen Erdeni."However, the written character used for the second syllable of Panchen was"chen,"meaning subject or vassal, rather than the character used traditionally. This switch was an expression of the fact that Tibet was under the central political authority of the Qing Dynasty.

2. The Temple of the Potaraka Doctrine (Putuozongshengmiao). Located directly north of the Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat, it is the largest of the Eight Temples Beyond the Great Wall, occupying an area of 220,000 square meters. Construction was begun in 1767 and completed almost four years later. It is modeled on the great Potala Monastery in Lhasa and is thus also known as the Little Potala. The buildings are a synthesis of Han and Tibetan styles.

The temple has a tall and imposing entrance gate similar in design to a city gate tower. Inside the gate is a pavilion housing three stela, the largest one inscribed with"The Record of the Temple of the Potaraka Doctrine (Putuozongshengmiao)"in Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan languages. The stela to the east is inscribed with"The Record of Offering Assistance to the Turgot People,"both in the four languages found on the main stela. The stories behind the two smaller stelae are as follows:

The Turgots were a Mongol tribe living in the present area of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. At the beginning of the 17th century, the tribal chieftain came into conflict with the leaders of other tribes, and in the third year of Emperor Chongzhen' s reign (1630) led his people and herds on a long trek to the Volga River. Before long, the government of tsarist Russia began to oppress the Turgort people by levying burdensome taxes and conscripting their young men until they could no longer suffer the humiliation. Under a young leader, 33,000 households, totaling some 169,000 people, broke through the encirclement of the pursuing tsarist army and in June 1771, after traveling over 5,000 kilometers in eight months, reached their native land. On arriving at Ili; they presented the Qing government with the jade seal, which Emperor Yongle had bestowed on their desire to once more become part of China.

The western stela tells how the Qing government appointed officials to select good land for the Turgot tribe to settle on, and sent them cattle, sheep, grain, clothing and tents worth 200,000 taels of silver. In addition, the newly returned tribesmen were given the right to herd their cattle throughout the Ili River basin.

Just to the north of the stela pavilion is the Five-Pagoda Gate, and beyond this a glazed memorial archway. Dotting the hillside are white terraces and Lamaist pagodas, and behind them, standing on the highest point of the mountain slope, towers the awe-inspiring Great Red Terrace (Dahongtai). From the top pf the terrace, the precipitous mountains take on the appearance of an immense jade screen.

The Great Red Terrace, built on the top of a huge 17-meter-high white terrace, is constructed of granite blocks and bricks, and although from the outside it appears to contain seven stories, inside it is in fact only three stories high. The outer faces of the terrace are painted a plain red and the walls of the middle and top sections are decorated with colored glazed figures of Buddhas seated in arched niches.

In the central section of the Red Terrace there is a square hall known as the"Hall Where Ten Thousand Laws Are Reduced to One"(Wanfaguiyidian)which is roofed with gilded tiles. Inside the hall are large numbers of images of the Amitayus and other Bodhisattvas. Here also is a statue of a goddess riding a demonic beast with the figures of two children, part demon, part human, in front and in back. According to legend, after this beautiful goddess became a Buddha, she heard that the Eastern Sea was being ravaged by a man-eating demon with an insatiable appetite. She volunteered to save the inhabitants of this region, and bewitched the demon with her beauty at their first meeting. She agreed to marry him on two conditions-that he had to stop eating people and ceases plundering their property. The demon agreed and they were married. The couple had two children, but the demon's behavior did not improve, and although he claimed that he had reformed, he kept on with his evil deeds. The goddess learned the truth, however, and one day made her husband very drunk and killed him with her sword. She then mounted a demonic beast and headed back to the Western Heaven. The demon in face had not died, and when he awoke from his drunken stupor he set out in hot pursuit. His first arrow struck her steed directly, and today the statue of the horse still bears the scar. The goddess' children, who were following along behind, were struck by his next arrows and transformed into semi-human creatures.

3. The Temple of Universal Peace (Puningsi). The temple, situated on the western bank of the Wulie River, is the most easterly of the northern temples and occupies an area of over 30,000 square meters. It was built in 1755 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong on the model of the Samye Temple, the earliest Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Inside the first courtyard of the temple is a pavilion containing a stela inscribed with the record of the temple's construction. The text, written in Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan, was written by Emperor Qianlong himself. Behind the Mahavira Hall (Daxiongbaodian) on a stone terrace approximately nine meters high, stand a group of halls that make the center of the temple. Here in the Hall of the Great Vehicle (Dashengge), a giant statue 22.3 meters tall towers up through the building's five stories. Known as the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin) with a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes, it measures nearly 10 meters around the waist and weighs 110 tons. Each of the fingers on its 42 arms of the statue stands a smaller image, 1.2 meters tall, which according to tradition represents Guanyin' s teacher Amitabha. His position on top of Guanyin' s head denotes the high esteem in which he was held.

The Hall of the Great Vehicle is surrounded by a number of smaller halls and white terraces, which have been arranged in a mandala pattern, which symbolizes the structure of the universe. The hall itself symbolizes Mount Sumeru, the center of the Buddhist universe, and surrounding it are the "four greater continents"and the"eight lesser continents"which are described in the Chinese classic novel The Journey to the West (Xiyouji).

4. The Temple of Universal Happiness (Pulesi). This temple is also known as the Round Pavilion and was built in 1766 in honor of the representatives of the Kazak, Khalkhas and other ethnic peoples who came to Chengde for audiences with Emperor Qianlong. The main building, the Pavilion of the Brilliance of the Rising Sun (Xuguangge), is famous for its caisson ceiling and unique wooden mandala, the only one of its kind in China outside Tibet. Eight colorful glazed pagodas erected on lotus flower pedestals once topped the temple's outer walls, but now only one of them remains. Traditionally they are said to represent the lotus flowers that appeared at every step taken by Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, when he was very young.

Of the remaining temples at Chengde, the Temple of the Image of Manjusri (Shuxiangsi) and the Temple of Universal Benevolence (Purensi) are both built in Chinese style. The Temple of Pacifying the Outlying Areas (Anyuanmiao) lies to the north of the Temple of Universal Happiness and was built in 1764 on the model of the Gu' erzha Temple in the Ili Valley. Today only the Hall of Universal Conversion (Pududian) remains intact. Inside this hall is a statue of the Queen of Conversion to Buddhism (Ludumu). The walls are decorated with murals depicting Buddhist legends.


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