First day of a weekend away to Chengde
Whilst I was studying Mandarin in Beijing in 2010, friends of mine invited me to a weekend away to Chengde to see the Imperial Summer Mountain Resort and its outlying temples, which is about a three to four hour drive from Beijing. I thought this was a great way to see somewhere out of Beijing and escape the heat and pollution, so off I went with five others in a hired bus complete with tour guide.
We took lots of snacks on the bus as my friends already knew that the stop along the way would not have the sorts of delicious (unhealthy) snacks we we wanted (nor toilets I would use). And along the way we saw many hard-working Chinese along the freeway, building or making goodness know what -but still working very hard!!
The Mountain Resort is a summer palace for the Emperor during the Qing dynasty and was built between 1703 and 1792 and took eighty-nine years to complete. The resort is ‘huge’…it’s as big as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace combined. It’s surrounded by a ten kilometres long wall and covers 590 hectares.Emperors often spent several months a year at the resort to escape the summer heat in Beijing and the palace area in the southern part of the resort was designed to resemble the Forbidden City in Beijing. It consisted of two parts: the front where the emperor received high officials and foreigners and the imperial family’s living quarters in the rear.When we arrived in Chengde we first taken to our hotel to check-in then after a quick lunch went to visit the resort. We took a lovely boat ride along one of the lakes and enjoyed the surrounding scenery. The boat staff were dressed in traditional Chinese clothing and parts of the boats were painted ’emperor yellow’.The resort is known for its seventy-two scenic spots which were named by two different Chinese emperors. Many of the scenic spots around the resort’s lake area were copied from famous landscaped gardens in southern China. For instance, the main building on the Green Lotus Island called ‘Tower of Mist and Rain’ is modeled upon a tower in one of the lakes in Zhejiang Province.The resort also has a seventy metre tall stone Chinese pagoda, said to be one of the tallest in China and built in 1751. The pagoda is shaped with an octagonal base, while the pagoda’s nine stories are decorated with colorful glazed tiles and the steeple is crowned with a gilded round spire.After the boat ride we were given time to ourselves to walk throughout the grounds and the ruins of the palace. A very beautiful place to stroll although because it was summer time and there were many parts of the grounds without shade, I found it pretty warm albeit not anything like the heat in Beijing.After a very long day, we returned to our hotel for dinner, followed by another day in Chengde which I will post on another time!!