Chengde, China and The Lesser Potala Palace (Putuozong Cheng Zhi Miao)
an interesting side trip out of Beijing
Chengde, in northeastern China's Hebei province, is a smaller city about two and a half hours northeast of Beijing by car, that most visitors to China never have the opportunity to see. As the location of the Qing Dynasty's Imperial Summer (or Mountain) Resort, this charming city has a tremendous history and is well worth a day or two to visit. There are several other sites worth seeing in Chengde. In addition to the Imperial Summer Resort, there are the Eight Outer Temples that are built according to many different design plans from all over China. The most famous of these is the Putuozongcheng Temple, also known as the Lesser or Little Potala Palace because it was modeled on the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. This Buddhist temple, located north of the Imperial Summer Resort, was built over a four-year span from 1767 to 1771 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796). Also known as the Temple of the Potarka Doctrine, this temple complex is one of the largest in China, covering an area of 220,000 square meters. Many of its numerous halls and pavilions feature a roof covered in copper or gold, some of which still show the marks where Japanese soldiers attempted to scrape off the gold when Chengde was occupied by the Japanese from 1933 to 1945. Along with the Imperial Resort and the rest of the Eight Outer Temples, the Lesser Potala Palace was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.