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Chengde is an 18th-century imperial summer resort, about 250 km northeast of Beijing, which was discovered by the early Qing emperor Kangxi in the late 17th century, who found the cool summer climate and natural scenery appealing as a summer retreat. Kangxi and his successors built some 72 palaces there by the end of the 18th century. One of them is the replica of the Potala Palace of the Tibetan Buddhist lamas, which forms one of the eight famous outer temples on the suburbs of Chengde. The well-known Imperial Summer Resort called " Bishushanzhuang", built with palaces and lakes is the most attractive scenic spot located right in the city. Chengde came to be seen as unlucky after two Chinese emperors died there in 19th-century, including the Jiaqing emperor who was struck down by lightning near the palace in 1820.
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The complex was neglected during the early 20th century and restored on a large scale in the 1980's. Today Chengde is a popular tourist summer retreat for Beijing urbanites. In December 1994, Outer Eight Temples together with the Imperial Summer Resort were listed as the World Cultural Heritage.

Imperial Summer Resort

The Imperial Summer Resort was the largest imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty. It covers an area of 5.64 million square meters, is twice as big as the Summer Palace in Beijing. The imperial theme of "collecting the world scene in one garden, moving the best beauty to one place" is represented in the garden, which combines the grace of South China and the grandeur of North China. The construction of Imperial Summer Resort was started in 1703; after 89 years, until the year 1792, its 124 groups of constructions had been finished, in which 72 scenic sites were named by the Emperor at that time. The whole construction area is about 100 thousand square meters.
The Imperial Summer Resort can be divided into the palace zone, the lake zone, the mountain zone and the plain zone. In the south it is the palace zone consisting of formal Palace, Pine & Crane House, East Palace and Million Valleys and Pines, four groups of structures. The palace zone has become the Royal Art Museum and the place for recovering historic legacy of the palace of the Qing Dynasty. In this zone there are the gray tiles and the plain bricks with the winding old pines and the thick crown of trees, in which you'll have a chance to feel the real nature, grace and primitive simplicity. The lake zone has an area of about 82 acres, divided into many small lakes by the islands and dykes. The plain zone is located on the north of the lake zone covering an area of 53 hectares. The mountain zone covers an area of 4.22 million square meters. The highest peak is 510 meters high above the sea level, and it is 180 meters higher than the plain zone.
In the Qing Dynasty the Emperors usually held the head meeting in Ten Thousand Trees Garden, had dinner with fireworks, lights, music and dancing and singing. The Big Army Tent and Mongolia Box were built when there were large-scale activities. Now the Mongolia Box is rebuilt into the Village for Holiday. Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong had ordered to build more than 40 buildings, pavilions, temples, and houses which had small tourist imperial paths and narrow winding tracks towards the hills. The mountains are winding mountains with deep ditches, gullies and valleys in all directions, thick forest and mountain brooks, which form different landscapes in four seasons. Now you can get to the top of the hills by cableway and look from the mountain at the great wonders on four sides of the mountain.

Outer Eight Temples

On the east and north of Imperial Summer Resort there are twelve colorful, attractive, magnificent and glorious grand Lamaism temples that are encircled by waving mountains just as the moon was surrounded by plenty of stars. These temples are models of the Hans, Mongols, and Tibet temples. Seeing the Outer Eight Temples, we can feel the grandness of Potala Palace in Tibet, the magnificence of Tashilhunbu Monastery, the elegance of Shuxiang Temple on Wutai Mountain, the beauty of Guerzha Temple of Yili in Xinjiang and the largest Bodhisattva made of wood in the world, which has thousands of hands and thousands of eyes. At that time, the eight temples of them were managed by the government of the Qing Dynasty and registered in Beijing Lama Publishing and Registration Council.

The Imperial Summer Resort is quite different from the Outer Eight Temples in the outside design. Either grand imperial palace or entertainment house, building, pavilion and tower are built with gray bricks and plain tiles which strikes you with a feeling of nature and simplicity, However Outer Eight Temples were built with attractive, fresh and beautiful color such as colored glaze tiles and gold-plating scale roof, they look really spectacular and marvelous. The construction styles of twelve temples are Han style, Tibet style and the combination of Han and Tibet. The building, the garden, the inscription, the sculpture, the mural and other cultural relics are ancient treasure to study the history of the Qing Dynasty. There are now seven of temples are in good condition and open to public.

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