World cultural heritage - Chengde Mountain Resort in Tianjin

Updated: 11 Jul 2013
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Chengde Mountain Resort


Date of Inscription: 1994

World cultural heritage: The Mountain Resort, Chengde

Chinese name: Cheng De Bi Shu Shan Zhuang He Zhou Wei Si Miao

English name: The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde

Approval date: December 1994

Heritage category: Cultural heritage

Selection criteria: Based on the standards C(II)(IV) for selecting cultural heritage, the Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples in Chengde were listed in the World Heritage List.

Assessment of the World Heritage Committee:

The Chengde Mountain Resort was the summer palace for the royal family of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in Hebei Province and was built between 1703 and 1792. It is a large architectural complex composed of many palaces and buildings for handling political affairs and holding ceremonies. It is also a very beautiful place where the temples and royal gardens of various styles and their surrounding lakes, pastures and forests are combined together delicately. In addition to the aesthetic value, a lot of rare historic relics of China's last feudal dynasty are also well preserved in the resort.



The Chengde Mountain Resort, also known as the "Rehe Xanadu," is located in the long and narrow valley to north of the Chengde City in Hebei Province in the north of China, and covers 584 hectares. The construction of the resort started in the 42nd year of the Kangxi Emperor (1703) and was suspended during the Yongzheng Emperor period (1723—1736). Then, the construction continued in the sixth year of the Qianlong Emperor (1741), and 36 Qianlong (1736—1796) scenic spots and the outer eight temples were added. The construction of the resort took about 90 years, which was the prime period of the Qing Dynasty. A lot of skillful architectural workers and masters participated in the construction. In the 50th year of the Kangxi Emperor (1662—1723), the Emperor personally wrote the resort name on the top of the Meridian Gate. The mountain resort consists of two regions, the palace region and the scenic region.

The palace region is in the southern part of the resort. Many well-designed buildings stand upright there and it looks like a smaller "Forbidden City." It has four architectural groups, the Main Palace, the Pine Crane Palace, the Wan He Song Feng Palace and the Eastern Palace. The Main Palace was the place where the Emperor dealt with political affairs, rested and held important ceremonies. The pine and crane means longevity in Chinese culture and the Pine Crane Palace in the Qianlong Emperor period was where the Emperor's mother lived. The Wan Ke Song Feng Palace was the Emperor's office and study, and is located between the palace region and the lake region and looks quite like the Garden of Harmonious Interests in the Summer Palace. The Eastern Palace is located in the most eastern part of the region and it was where the Emperor held feasts and celebrations, but was destroyed during a war.

The Water Wave Palace: There are seven buildings and two halls to the north of the Wan Sui Zhao Fang Palace, and the name of this building group is the Water Wave Palace. They are bedrooms for the Emperors at the resort. The Kangxi Emperor once said that since the resort was high and cool and surrounded by green ridges and peaceful lakes, it made him feel fresh. Therefore, he named the palace the Water Wave Palace. It is the first of the resort's 36 Kangxi Scenic Spots.

The Four-Realization Study Room: This room was originally called the "Yi Qing Kuang." It was the place for the Emperor to have breaks and change clothes, and also the place where the Emperor gave honorable receptions to his trusted officials and the leaders of minority nationalities. The Four-Realization means "realizing the softness, hardness, expressing and hiding" which was a summary of the feudal politics. The Qianlong Emperor once gave a reception to the Sixth Panchen and the Wobaxi, the leader of the Mongolian Tuerhute Tribe.


The scenic region has three parts, the Lake Zone, the Plain Zone and the Mountain Zone. The Lake Zone is located to the north of the palace region and features both the grace of China's southern lakes and the roughness of China's northern lakes. The lake group in the zone is generally called the "Sai Lakes" which covers 57 hectares in total. The total area of all the islands is 28 hectares. The Sai Lakes originally contained nine lakes and 10 islands. The nine lakes were the Mirror Lake, Silver Lake, Lower Lake, Upper Lake, Clear Lake, Ruyi Lake, Inner Lake, Long Lake and Half-Moon Lake. The 10 islands consisted of five larger islands and five smaller ones. The larger ones were the Wenyuan Island, Qingshushan Hall Island, Moonlight and River-Sound Island, Ruyi Island and Wenjin Island. The smaller ones were the Jiede Hall Island, Gold Mountain Island, Green Lotus Island, Huanbi Island and Linfang Villa Island. The islands are connected with bridges and currently, only seven of the nine lakes and eight of the 10 islands remain.

The Plain Zone is located to the east of the Lake Zone, covering 53 hectares. It has four pavilions in its southern part along the lakeside named "Flowing Water Floating Cloud," "River Sound," "Forest Bird Twitter" and "Green Meadow." Other scenic spots include the "Duckweed Courtyard," "Spring Scenery Garden," "Waterside Tower," "Thousand-Tree Park," "Royal Race Course," "Yongyou Temple" and "Buddhist Relics Pagoda." According to Mongolian customs, no building was set in the "Thousand-Tree Park" except for several Mongolian tents. The Qianlong Emperor used to give receptions to government and religious leaders of minority nationalities and hold outdoor feasts in this park. To the west and north of the Plain Zone was the Mountain Zone, which covers 422 hectares, 80 percent of the resort's total area. The steep mountains in this zone belong to the Fengyunling Mountain System, a branch of the Yanshan Mountains. From north to south, you can see four great valleys in this zone, the Songyun Valley, Pear Tree Valley, Pine Forest Valley and Filbert Valley. During Kangxi and Qianlong periods, 40 towers, pavilions, temples and halls were built in the mountain, and all of them were connected with footpaths. The high mountain peaks are like natural barriers which block the cold wind from the north and west, and they are an important element that affects the climate of the resort.

In order to religiously win the support of the minority nationalities living in Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet and other regions, the Qing Dynasty built 12 temples of various architectural styles around the Mountain Resort. Of them, eight were directly administrated by the Qing Government, and therefore called the Outer Eight Temples. Based on architectural styles, the temples can be divided into Tibetan style temples, Han style temples and Tibetan-Han style temples. These temples all contain the architectural essence of the Han, Tibetan and other nationalities of China, and look really splendid and royal.

Different from other royal resorts, the Mountain Resort inherited and developed China's traditional classic architectural idea of "design based on nature, but making it surpass nature." The site selection and overall design of the resort were all based on the natural landforms and the construction was perfectly integrated with nature. Meanwhile, China's northern and southern architectural essences were also absorbed into the resort. The resort is a brilliant milestone in China's resort construction history and also an excellent work of China's classic resort architecture. It has always been praised as the "Reduction of China's Landforms" and "Top Example of China's Classic Resorts."


Cultural heritage value:

The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples in Chengde has become an important part of the World Cultural Heritage for its own outstanding universal values. The reasons include:

(1) The mountain resort, as a resort-type royal palace of the Qing Dynasty, has abundant social, political and historical significance.

The mountain resort was a summer palace built by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty for the political purpose of comforting and strengthening the ties with China's minority nationalities living on the border lands, and enhancing the unification of China. After the resort was completed, the Qing emperors spent much time there to deal with military and political affairs and give receptions to political and religious leaders of the minority nationalities. The resort was essentially the second political center of the Qing Dynasty. The important cultural relics and antiques of a series of important events that occurred at the resort have become historic witnesses of China's last feudal dynasty.

(2) The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples is a typical example of the perfect complexes of China's ancient imperial palaces and royal temples.

The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples were built in the last flourishing age of China's feudal society—the Kang Qian Prosperity Era. The construction experienced three emperors, took 89 years, and spent much manpower and materials. It is an excellent work of China's ancient architectural technologies of building imperial palaces and royal temples. The resort and the private garden are called the "two perfect examples in the imperial palace construction realm of China's garden and park construction system." The resort realized the perfect formal integration of palaces and parks, and the perfect functional integration of "dealing with political affairs" and "resting and relaxing." The temples have clear political functions.

(3) The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples can reflect the great achievement of China's ancient architecture.

The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples is China's largest complex of imperial palaces and royal temples. It absorbed the essence of China's ancient architectural art and is an architectural masterpiece. It inherited and developed China's traditional classic architectural ideas of "design based on nature, but surpassing nature" and creatively adopted various architectural materials and skills. It has become an outstanding representative of natural scenery gardens and architectural parks. While it was being built, it inherited, developed and creatively adopted various architectural skills and absorbed the essence of China's renowned parks and temples. Its theme was "absorbing every available merit." In detail, the resort realized the integration of China's southern and northern architectural arts, and it contains most of China's ancient building forms. The resort can reflect the excellent skills of China's ancient wooden-frame buildings and has realized the perfect integration of wooden-frame buildings and brick-and-stone-frame buildings, as well as Han-style buildings and minority-nationality-style buildings. In addition, China's excellent ancient skills of architectural decoration and Buddha statues can also be seen in the resort. Therefore, the resort has become a wonder in China's architectural history.

(4) The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples are practical materials for the world to learn about China's culture.

The gardens and buildings of the resort have not only creatively adopted various materials and skills, but also absorbed the essence of China's classic philosophy, aesthetics and literature. For this reason, they have become carriers of China's culture.

In a word, the only way for such an architectural masterpiece with outstanding universal value to play its role more effectively is listing it on the World Cultural Heritage List to protect it.



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