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Trace the footsteps of emperors in Chengde Mountain Resort

09-26-2010 09:34 BJT

Chengde Mountain Resort was a holiday retreat of China's last emperors. They avoided Beijing's stifling summer heat in palaces nestled in its cool, green hills. Xu Fan visits the resort and discovers its modern-day attractions.

The gilt-roofed Wanfa Guiyi Palace in the World Cultural Heritage-listed Eight
Outer Temples in Chengde, Hebei province. (File Photos)

Chengde is a small and picturesque city around two-hour's drive from Beijing. Here, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors built a summer palace as an imperial retreat for the rulers and their courts to flee the heat of summer every year. These days, it's a place where tourists, day-trippers and history buffs can get a taste of the imperial lifestyle and collect amusing anecdotes about these historic characters.

The resort was built by the Emperor Kangxi about 300 years ago. In those days, the royal court would have to make the one-week journey to Chengde using porters, sedans and horse-drawn carriages in a royal caravan known as luan jia. They would have envied the modern-day backpacker, who makes the trip in mere hours.

Buddha statues in the Eight Outer Temples in Chengde.

These days, the 250-km distance from Beijing has been compressed to a two-hour expressway bus ride or around four hours by train. Soon, tourists will be able to look forward to an inter-city bullet train that will reduce the traveling time to just 40 minutes.

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