Chengde is located in the northeast part of Hebei Province, China. This ancient city boasts history of nearly 300 years. Because of its lovely summer and breathtaking natural landscape, the city also acted as the favorite summer resort to the rulers of Qing Dynasty.
The key scenic spot over here is the Mountain Resort of Chengde, where eight outer monumental temples stand. Amongst these monumental temples one of them - Putuo Zongcheng Temple, is a key attraction of visitors each year and thousands of them flood here to see its majesty. This temple, amongst several others was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1994.
This temple was built to celebrate the 60th birthday of Emperor Qianlong and 80th birthday of his mother, in the thirty-second year of his rule. Built in 1767 the temple is also called as the “Little Potala Palace” as it imitates the style of the Potala Palace, which is located in Lhasa and is much larger.
The temple is a witness to history. Emperor Qianlong welcomed Wo Baxi here who had returned from the then tsarist Russia along with his tribesmen to his homeland after undergoing several trials and sufferings. He was the leader of one of the important tribes of China, the Tuerhute tribe.
General characteristics and architecture
This temple is a Buddhist temple and is the biggest, magnificent building amongst the Eight Outer Temples of Chengde. Covering an area of 220,000 meters, this is the largest temple in China. The temple is divided into three parts – the front, middle and the rear part.
The front part – It includes the gate of the temple, a stele pavilion and the five-tower gate.
The middle part – This part includes the glazed memorial archway, and the halls that house the monks.
The rear part – This is where the main architecture is present in the form of Red Palace and some buildings around that.
Apart from the 60 Buddhist Halls, the temple houses halls where monks would recite ancient scriptures, and monks’ living quarters. The beautiful terraces are complete with glazed memorial arches that swell with the mountain slopes, which stand against the backdrop of the temple. The main area is the Big Red Platform. The ceilings of the platform, halls and the pavilions are decorated with copper and gold tiles, adding to its grandeur and opulence.
Many of the halls here speak of the Tibetan style and architecture as they contain white walls and flat roofs. The important part about these halls is that the ‘Han Chinese’ elements can also be seen, which adds to the fact that one can see a style fusion of Chinese and Tibetan architecture or how the Tibetan architecture was influenced by the Chinese art form.
The temple was of immense importance in the ancient times. Here the emperor gathered meetings of the cultural envoys from all across China. Apart from that it served as a venue of not only Buddhist ceremonies and festivals, but several other functions too.
Today the Putuo Zongcheng Temple is home to numerous artifacts, right from statues to the pottery and furnishings. You can also see some Tibetan religious elements too.
Overall, this temple is a gem of all religious buildings in China.