HebeiChengde Imperial Summer Resort
Apr-Oct ¥145, Nov-Mar ¥90
Kangxi, the influential emperor during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), called his summer creation Bishu Shanzhuang — Fleeing the Heat Mountain Villa — now known as the Imperial Summer Villa.
In the north of Chengde, about 200 km from Beijing, the summer residence of Qing emperors for nearly 300 years has exquisite towers, pavilions, terraces, hills and lakes within the palace, that contrast sublimely with each other.
Through rich and varied ancient architecture, the villa displays the tough nature of northerners and the more delicate characteristics of southerners. Outside the walls, eight outer temples, built in the styles of different nationalities, create an atmosphere of political harmony and unity.
A huge spirit wall shields the resort entrance at Lizhengmen Dajie Street.
Through Lizheng Gate, the Main Palace is a series of nine courtyards and five elegant, unpainted halls, with a rusticity complemented by towering pine trees. The wings in each courtyard have various exhibitions (porcelain, clothing, weaponry), and most of the halls are decked out in period furnishings.
The first hall is the refreshingly cool Hall of Simplicity and Sincerity, built with an aromatic cedar wood called nanmu, and displaying a carved throne draped in yellow silk. Other prominent halls include the emperor’s study (Study of Four Knowledges) and living quarters (Hall of Refreshing Mists and Waves). On the left-hand side of the latter is the imperial bedroom. Two residential areas branch out from here: the empress dowager’s Pine Crane Palace to the east, and the smaller Western Apartments, where the concubines (including a young Cixi) resided.
Exiting the Main Palace brings you to the gardens and forested hunting grounds, with landscapes borrowed from famous southern scenic areas in Hangzhou, Suzhou and Jiaxing, as well as the Mongolian grasslands.
The two-storey Misty Rain Tower, on the northwestern side of the main lake, served as an imperial study. Further north is the Wenjin Pavilion, built in 1773. Don't miss the wonderfully elegant 250-year-old Yongyousi Pagoda, which soars above the fragments of its vanished temple in the northeast of the complex.
Most of the compound is taken up by lakes, hills, forests and plains. There are magnificent views of some of the outlying temples from the northern wall.
Just beyond the Main Palace is the starting-point for bus tours of the gardens. Further on you'll find a place for boat rentals.