The Mountain Resort in Chengde, one of the four most famous Chinese gardens and one of the largest and best-preserved imperial palaces outside Beijing, used to be a summer resort and hunting ground for emperors of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). They also used the palace to organize martial art competitions and receive the elite of ethnic minority groups from around China.
The Mountain Resort, located in Chengde City, Hebei Province, covers an area of 564 square meters, almost half of Chengde's urban area. It is enclosed by a wall 10,400 meters long. Construction began in 1703 under the rule of Emperor Kang Xi and was completed in 1790 under the rule of Emperor Qian Long. There are more than 100 buildings within the resort, which is divided into two sections: palace zone and garden zone. The Rehe (Jehol), the shortest river in the world, only 14.7 kilometers long, runs through the resort. The gardens are superbly designed to take in the very best of various styled gardens.
In the outlying area, 11 magnificent temples stand on the hills in a semi-circle. As they were divided into eight sections under the administration of the Beijing-based Harmony and Peace Lamasery (a monastery for lamas), they were usually referred to as the "Eight Outer Temples". Only seven temples, including Puren Temple (Universal Humanity), Temple of Sumeru (Happiness and Longevity) and Puning Temple (Universal Tranquility) remain intact. They comprise the largest temple building complex existing in China. They were used by nobles of various ethnic minority groups who came to have an audience with the Qing emperors, and to reside and conduct religious activities. These temples, built on the elevating hill slopes, look grand and splendid. The wood engraved Buddha in the Puning Temple, 22.28 meters tall, is the largest of its kind in the world. Its waist measures 15 meters and it has 42 arms. Some 120 cubic meters of wood, weighing some 110 tons, were used to make the Buddha.
The summer resort and the surrounding temples were placed on the world cultural heritage list in 1994.
The Mountain Resort Management Office
The Eight Outer Temples Management Office
(China.org.cn September 12, 2003)