The Qing emperors knew exactly where to shelter during Peking’s hot summer months, in the Valley of Coolness, a beautiful forested river valley 250 kilometres northeast of Peking. In former Rehe Province, today’s Chengde, is the old summer residence of the Manchu Dynasty that took more than a century to construct.
The Forbidden Palace and its park and gardens are now open to the public. Just as in Peking, the emperor went about his official business in the southern front hall with the royal living quarters situated in the rear section of the complex. The huge garden, with its many ponds and bridges is encircled by a 10 kilometre wall beyond which are several large valleys. The garden covers 560 hectares and is the largest Imperial park complex in China, a unique architectural work of art.
The temple monastery of Xumi-Fushou-Miao is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. Translated, the temple’s name is, "Happiness and Longevity of the Summer Hill". The temple was built in 1780 to mark the visit to China of a senior Tibetan religious dignitary, the sixth Panchen Lama, and is a replica of what was his own monastery in Tibet.
The Mahayana Pavilion is the centre of Buddhist religious belief, namely, Sumeru Mountain. Thus the five-story building is located in the middle of an architectural mandala. The magnificent opulence of the Pavilion was a reflection of China’s vast wealth. Each one of the architectural elements that are situated close to the Mahayana Pavilion adhere to the disciplined structure of the Buddhist Universe.
In the 18th century, China had become the greatest and most prosperous Empire in the world. The magnificent summer residence of the Qing Emperor and its surrounding buildings are a glorious and remarkable demonstration of ultimate power.