The emperors of the Qing Dynasty had built their summer resort in Chengde, Hebei Province of China. The reason for this was the fact that the summer temperature averages to about 17 degrees in this area. This summer resort is known as the Mountain Resort and was built between 1703 and 1792 in two phases, covering three successive emperors of the Qing Dynasty.
The initial phase saw opening of the lake area and building islets and barrages as a preparation for building the palaces and other associated buildings. The second phase saw construction of palaces, picturesque gardens, and the Outlying Temples or Eight Outer Temples.
The Qing emperors wanted to strengthen their control over the Mongolian region and also fortify the northern borders. They would visit the Mulan Hunting Grounds located in the Mongolian grasslands each year. Since their entourage used to be very large, they decided to build palaces to accommodate them. Outside the palace walls of the Mountain Resort, Eight Outer Temples were built.
These temples mainly boast Tibetan style architecture. Since the work of their construction was overlooked by Lifan Yuan, which was an administrative department for the affairs of ethnic minorities, a blend of Mongolian and Tibetan architectural styles can be seen here. UNESCO declared Eight Outer Temples and the Mountain Resort as the World Heritage Site in 1994.
Currently out of the eight temples, six are open for general public, and these include Putuo Zongchengzhi Temple, Puning Temple, Xumi Fushouzhi Temple, Pule Temple, Anyuan Temple and Puyou Temple. All these temples have unique gateways and arches. The two most famous temples out of the Eight Outer Temples are Puning Temple and Putuo Zongcheng Temple.
The Eight Outer Temples were of immense importance to the Qing Dynasty and the country as they represented the feelings of various ethnic minorities across China who directed their loyalty towards the governance.
Eight Outer Temples
Puning Temple – This was built in 1755 and is home to the world’s tallest wooden sculpture of Buddha that is 21.85 meters in height and 110 tons in weight. The sculpture depicts Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara avatar of Buddha. This temple is spread in an area of 23,000 square meters.
Putuo Zongcheng Temple – This is the biggest and most magnificent of all the temples. Modeled after the Potala Palace of the Tibet, this is also fondly called as the “Little Potala Palace”. It is spread in an area of 220,000 square meters and has 60 halls of various types. Emperor Qianlong had built this temple for the then Dalai Lama, but Dalai Lama never saw this temple.
Xumi Fushouzhi Temple – This temple was built in 1779 and has very interesting history. The sixth Panchan Lama wanted to visit Emperor Qianlong on his birthday to join the celebrations there. When the emperor came to know about this news, he immediately ordered to build Xumi Fushouzhi Temple, which acted as the Lama’s residence during his stay to honor the Lama. Although it took a year to built this temple, the Lama could spend only one month and three days here.
Pule Temple – This temple was built in 1766. Though this was built on a flat ground, its views included the scenic mountains. Featuring an amalgamation of Chinese and Tibetan style architecture, this temple lies in an area of 24,000 square meters.
Anyuan Temple – This temple was built in 1756 when Emperor Qianlong wanted to suppress the Zhuge’er’s tribe’s rebellion in Xinjiang. To pacify the rebels, emperor ordered the construction of Anyuan Temple also known as Ili Temple.
Puyou Temple – This temple lies in the east of the Puning Temple. The temple is in a dilapidated condition mainly because of a fire in 1964. However, restoration work is on.