Grouped on the eastern and northern slopes of the Mountain Resort, this collection of temples offers a powerful insight into Chengde's role as not just a royal getaway, but as a political arena. Each temple was built to reflect the architectural style of a different minority, so when meetings with rival border groups took place, they provided handy diplomatic currency (the large Tibetan influence was for the benefit of the Mongols, who were devout Lamaists).
However, of the dozen monasteries originally built during the Qing Dynasty, only eight survive today in good condition (two were destroyed, two are now dilapidated). Just a few are open to the public. Buses No. 6 and 10 take visitors from the Mountain Resort to the eastern and northern temples respectively. If you're strapped for time, though, it's worth prioritising Pu tuo zong cheng Si (aka Temple of Potaraka Doctrine), which is a stunning replica of Tibet's Potala Palace, and Puning Si (aka the Temple of Universal Peace),
which is still in use by monks and has a handy hotel attached.
Putuo Zongcheng Temple. Built from 1767 to mark Emperor Qianlong's birthday, the largest of Chengde's temples is modeled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa—it also goes by the nickname "Little Potala." A fusion of Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles, it's most impressive when viewed from the north wall of the Mountain Resort, or from the courtyard of Anyuan Temple. Inside the imposing gate is a pavilion housing three stelae, the largest inscribed in Han, Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan languages. The Y80 ticket includes admission to the Xumi Fushou Temple next door, a replica of the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Tibet, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama. Shizigou Lu, 067000. 0314/216–3072. Apr.–Oct. Y80, Nov.–Mar. Y60. Apr.–Oct., daily 8–5; Nov.–Mar., daily 8:30–4:30.
Pule Temple. The conical-roofed centerpiece of this serene hillside temple, the Pavilion of the Brilliance of the Rising Sun (Xuguangge), will be instantly recognizable if you've visited Beijing's Temple of Heaven. Built to host visiting Kazak, Uygher, and Kyrger dignitaries, as well as to commemorate certain Mongol tribes, Pule Temple was laid out to resemble a mandala of Tibetan Buddhism. From the south wall of the temple, it's a peaceful 40-minute walk up the hillside to Sledgehammer Rock. The Y50 ticket includes admission to Sledgehammer Rock and the lovely Anyuan Temple down the hill. East of Mountain Resort, 067000. Y50. Apr.–Oct., daily 8–5:30; Nov.–Mar., daily 8:30–5.
Puning Temple. Located on the western banks of the Wulie River, this temple was built in 1755 to commemorate Emperor Qianlong's triumphant conquest of the warring Dzungar people from Xinjiang. Intended to mark a new period of peace, it was modeled after the Samye Monastery, a sacred Lamaist site in Tibet. Also known as "Big Buddha Temple," its main attraction is an awe-inspiring 72-foot-tall statue of Guanyin, a Buddhist deity of compassion. The statue is made from five types of wood, including pine, cypress, elm, and fir. Puning Si Lu, 067000. 0314/205–8209 or. Apr.–Oct. Y80; Nov.–Mar. Y60. Apr.–Oct., daily 8–4:30; Nov.–Mar., daily 8:30–4.
North of the Imperial Summer Villa, Chengde, 067000, China