Chengde, China and the Imperial Summer Resort
an interesting day trip out of Beijing
The city of Chengde, in Hebei province in northeast China, is often confused with the larger and better known city of Chengdu, located in southwest China's Sichuan province. Despite the confusion, Chengde is an interesting and historical city all on its own, mainly due to its proximity to Beijing (140 miles /230 km northeast of Beijing), which allowed it to be used as a summer retreat for China's emperors from the Qing dynasties. Known as the Imperial Summer Resort or Imperial Mountain Resort, it served as a cooler location for the Qing dynasty emperors to escape from the often oppressive heat of Beijing during long hot summers. As the seat of political power moved with the emperors, Chengde thus served as an important place of political power in China during these summer retreats. The construction of the Imperial Summer Resort began in 1703 under Emperor Kangxi, with major construction finally finished in 1790. Enormous in size, the entire complex covers an area of 5,640,000 square meters and surrounded by walls of more than 10,000 meters in length, which makes it larger than the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing - combined.
This site alone makes a Beijing Chengde tour worthwhile, but there are many other sites worth seeing in Chengde, including the Eight Outer Temples, one of which is the Lesser (or Little) Potala Palace, Sledgehammer Rock, and the Qing Dynasty Show, which traces the history of the area (with English subtitles). If you have a spare day during your Beijing tour, it would certainly be worth your time to make a trip off of the beaten path to see this historic city that not many foreigners have ever visited.