Rowing boat rental ￥ 30-50/hr
The best way to get around the lakearea of the park - a network of pavilions, bridges, lakes
and waterways - is to rent a rowing boat . Much of the architecture here is a direct copy of
southern Chinese buildings. In the east, the Golden Hill , a cluster of buildings grouped on
a small island, is notable for a hall and tower modelled after the Golden Hill Monastery in
Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province. The Island of Midnight and Murmuring Streams , roughly
in the centre of the lake, holds a three-courtyard compound which was used by Kangxi and
Qianlong as a retreat, while the compound of halls, towers and pavilions on RuyiIsland , the
largest, was where Kangxi dealt with affairs of state before the palace was completed.
Just beyond the lake area, to the west, is the grey-tiled Wenjin Ge , or Knowledge Imparting
Library, surrounded by rockeries and pools for fire protection. From the outside, the structure
appears to have two storeys. In fact there are three - a central section is windowless to protect
the topics from the sun. Sadly, the building is closed to the public.
North of the lake
A vast expanse of grassland extends from north of the lake area to the foothills of the moun-
tains, comprising WanshunWan (“Garden of Ten Thousand Trees”) and ShimaDa (“Horse
Testing Ground”). The hilly area in the northwest of the park has a number of rocky valleys,
gorges and gullies with a few tastefully placed lodges and pagodas. The deer, which graze on
tourist handouts, were reintroduced after being wiped out by imperial hunting expeditions.
The temples in the foothills of the mountains around Chengde were built in the architectural
styles of different ethnic nationalities, so wandering among them is rather like being in a re-
ligious theme park. This isn't far from the original intention, as they were constructed by
Kangxi and Qianlong less to express religious sentiment than as a way of showing off im-
perial magnificence, and also to make envoys from anywhere in the empire feel more at
home. Though varying in design, all the temples share Lamaistfeatures - Qianlong found it
politically expedient to promote Tibetan and Mongolian Lamaism as a way of keeping these
troublesome minorities in line.
The temples are now in varying states of repair, having been left untended for decades.
Originally there were twelve, but the remaining seven that can still be visited stand in two
groups: a string of five just beyond the northern border of Bishu Shanzhuang, and two more
to the east of the park. If you're short on time the PuningSi is a must, if only for the awe-in-
spiring statue of Guanyin , the largest wooden statue in the world.