- Other Names: Rèhé (熱河), Jehol
- Chinese/Japanese: 承德 (Chéngdé)
Chengde, formerly known as Jehol or Rehe and located in northern China, was a major administrative center during the Qing Dynasty, and remains a major city today.
Originally founded by the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661-1722) as a summer palace, the city of Chengde was built up beginning in 1703, and completed under the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1796) in 1760, to serve both as a Tibetan Buddhist religious center, and as an administrative center for Mongolia and northern China.
The city was organized both as a representation of the Empire in miniature, and as a mandala, a Buddhist geomantic ordering of the land in representation of the cosmos, with nearby Qingchui Peak standing in for the cosmic peak Mt. Sumeru. The central section of the city, roughly four square kilometers in size, was surrounded by a wall; within this wall lay a number of districts. The lake district was filled with numerous gardens and homes used by elite scholar-officials, while an area to the north, known as the Garden of Ten Thousand Trees, contained an area of prairie meant to reproduce the conditions of the Manchu or Mongolian steppe. This site was used for a number of ritual and ceremonial purposes, including horse racing, military exercises, fireworks, and a number of other imperial rituals. On certain occasions, yurts were arranged on this prairie to form a formal Court in the manner of the Manchu horseriding chieftains. One such occasion was the 1793 reception of British ambassador George Lord Macartney.
The city also contained twelve Buddhist and Confucian temples, of which nine survive today, representing major temples elsewhere in the Empire. Several are recreations of major Tibetan Buddhist sites, as the Qianlong Emperor developed strong ties with the Dalai Lama, and employed the Buddhist concept of the universal king, or chakravartin, in enhancing and enforcing discourses of his power and legitimacy. The most prominent of these is based upon the Potala Palace of Lhasa, and known as the Pǔlèsì ("Temple of Universal Happiness"), while another is a reproduction of the Jinshan Temple in Zhenjiang.
The Imperial summer palace was divided into three sections: the Main Hall (C: zhèng gōng), Pine and Crane Studio (sōng hè zhāi), and Eastern Palace (dōng gōng). The Main Hall itself, which served as the chief imperial residence at Chengde, possessed nine courtyards, representing the nine divisions of the cosmos.
- Francis D.K. Ching, et al, A Global History of Architecture, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons (2011), 602-603.
- Waley-Cohen, Joanna. “The New Qing History.” Radical History Review 88, no. 1 (2004): 200.