Chengde is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Chengde Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden formerly used by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Today the city is a popular tourist destination.
Chengde's older name of Rehe (or Jehol) came from the name for the local river which translates as "hot river." The river was so named because it did not freeze in the winter. Most sections of the river are currently dry because of a new damming project.
In 1703, Chengde was chosen by the Kangxi Emperor as the location for his summer residence. Constructed throughout the eighteenth century, the Chengde Mountain Resort (literally "avoiding the heat mountain villa") was used by both the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors. Since the seat of government followed the emperor, Chengde was a political center of the Chinese empire during these times.
The city is home to large populations of ethnic minorities, Mongol and Manchu in particular. The name for Chengde in Manchu is Erdemu be aliha fu. There are few foreigners in Chengde; the city receives far fewer foreign tourists than many better-known Chinese cities. It is widely considered an excellent location to learn Standard Mandarin, however, as residents generally speak without the accent of neighboring Beijing.
With road and railroad links to Beijing, Chengde has developed into a distribution hub, and its economy is growing rapidly. The newly-built Jingcheng Expressway connects Chengde directly to central Beijing, and more freeways are planned for the city.
Attractions in Chengde
The elaborate Chengde Mountain Resort features large parks with lakes, pagodas, and palaces ringed by a wall. Outside the wall are the Eight Outer Temples, built in varying architectural styles drawn from throughout China. The best-known of these is the Putuo Zongcheng Temple, built to resemble the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The resort and outlying temples were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The nearby Puning Temple, built in 1755, houses the world's tallest wooden statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.
Another popular attraction of the Chengde area is Sledgehammer Peak, a large rock formation in the shape of an inverted sledgehammer. A variety of other mountains, valleys, and grasslands lie within the borders of the city.