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Mountain Resort (Bishu Shanzhuang)
Mountain Resort (Bishu Shanzhuang) Review
Moved by Chengde's lush mountains, cool weather, and plentiful game—not to mention a desire to enjoy the former while shooting arrows at the latter—Emperor Kangxi ordered construction of the first palaces of the Mountain Resort in 1703. Within a decade, what was previously just a simple village had dozens of ornate temples, pagodas, and spectacular gardens spread out across 1,500 acres. By the end of the 18th century nearly 100 imperial structures filled the town.
The result was more than just a smaller version of the Summer Palace, however. Besides luxurious quarters for the emperor and his court, great palaces and temples were completed to house visiting dignitaries and to impress them with the grandeur of the Chinese empire. Its location was useful, as it lay far enough away from Beijing to host talks with rivals groups who wouldn't otherwise set foot in the capital. From its interconnected palaces, each built in different architectural styles, to its replicas of famous temples representing different Chinese religions, everything about the resort was designed to reflect China's diversity. In retrospect, it was as much a Qing statement of intent as it was a holiday home.
Today, the palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the surrounding landscape of lakes, meadows, and forests makes for an engaging stroll. The mountains in the northern half of the park and giant pagoda in the center afford panoramas unmatched elsewhere in the city. It is also home to the largest imperial garden in China. Even during peak season (April to October) it rarely feels crowded.
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