A weekend in Chengde
Whilst I was studying Mandarin in Beijing, a friend of mine and his wife asked me to go away for the weekend with another few friends, to Chengde which is in the northeast of Hebei Province, and about 230 kilometres from Beijing.
We went with a local tour company (China Culture Centre) and with our tour guide and about four other people we didn’t know, we hopped on our small tour bus and drove from Beijing to Chengde. This took about four hours but there was some nice scenery along the way once we got out of Beijing. We did a stop at a local ‘truck stop’ along the way but I didn’t use the facilities as was told they were not exactly clean and lovely…did enjoy a nice Chinese ice-cream though!
Chengde was established by Qing-dynasty emperor Kangxi as the imperial summer residence. There still remains an 18th-century Mountain Resort palace complex which comprises a museum, the remains of the royal library, a yurt-style village, beautiful gardens, pagodas and hunting grounds which are no longer used to hunt but you can see deer roaming the grounds.
We took a boat ride along the lake which afforded us the opportunity to see more of the grounds and pagodas. The boat operators were all dressed up in Qing Dynasty costumes.
The Mountain Resort (Bìshǔ Shānzhuāng which means ‘Mountain villa for avoiding the heat’…which makes total sense to me)!! Who doesn’t want to get out of the intense summer heat of Beijing. However when we went it was summer and absolutely stinking hot!!!
We also went to Sledge Hammer Peak (Qingchuifeng) which stands on a hill and is colloquially called ‘the thumb of God’…you can see why from the photos. To get to Qingchuifeng you have to walk along a very high wall with no sides; too scary for me so I just waited at the top of the mountain when we got off the chairlift.
Our final visit before we departed back to Beijing was the Putuo Zongcheng Temple; stunning!! This temple is not located far from the Mountain Resort and is one of the Eight Outer Temples of Chengde. The Eight Outer Temples is a collective name given to twelve temples located outside Gubeikou – a section of the Great Wall. Eight of the temples were administered by an administration department for the affairs of minorities i.e. Mongolian and Tibetan, and so the name stuck. (source:www.travelchinaguide.com).
The Putuo Zongcheng Temple was modelled after the Potala Palace of Tibet, the old sanctuary of the Dalai Lama and has a fusion of Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles. The temple is one of the largest in China and many of its halls and pavilions are adorned with copper and gold tiled roofs.
We were very fortunate to see monks; both male and female, walking to prayer which was very special to see.
And we also had the opportunity to listen to some elderly Chinese musicians sitting around just playing their Chinese instruments; again very special.
A weekend away that I absolutely loved…would love to re-visit one day.