NEAR BEIJING: MING TOMBS, CHENGDE AND THE PEKING MAN SITE

NEAR BEIJING

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Lingshan Mountain (120 kilometers west of downtown Beijing, in the northwest of Mentougou District) is the highest mountain in Beijing area and sometimes called 'Beijing's Mount Everest'. It is over 2,300 meters (7,546 feet) high.

Songzhuang (30 kilometers west of Beijing) is a trendy suburb in eastern Beijing that attracts the nouveau rich and artists with money and is the home of Beijing oldest surviving artists colony. According to Archdaily.com: “Songzhuang is the most famous and biggest artist community in China. The first artists moved here including Yue Minjun and Fang Lijun,in the early 1990’s, having been driven out of another community near the Old Summer Palace in Beijing’s north-west. For more than 10 years these artists were virtual outcasts with much of their work politically inspired, lived and worked under the watchful eye of communist authorities. With the booming of Chinese art market, Songzhuang is undergoing a dramatic expansion of artist population which has reached to 4000 in year 2008.

Tanzhe Temple (40 kilometers west of central Beijing) is one of the largest temples in the Beijing area. Set amongst rocky hills, the temple is stunning and dates back to the A.D. third century. Location: Tanzhe Mountain, Mentougou District.

Nan Haizu Milu Park (a few kilometers outside of Beijing) covers 250-acre and occupies the southwestern part of the former Imperial Hunting Park. It contains a herd of introduced Pere David's deer. The last native herd kept in the Imperial Hunting Park, a walled in 144-square mile royal preserve, disappeared after two tragic events. A severe flood in 1894 breached the walls of the Imperial Hunting Park and allowed many deer to escape into the surrounding countryside, where they were killed by starving peasants. Six years later, foreign troops shot the remainder during the bloody Boxer rebellion. The introduced heard has grown from 20 to 55 animals in ten years. See Animals.

Miraculous Vulture Yen Temple (50 kilometers west of Beijing) is a crumbling building in a shallow mountain valley. It was built in 1440 and destroyed by the Japanese in World War II. In the area are some other interesting temples, including Temple of the Pool Mulberry (Tanzhe Si) and the Ordination Terrace Temple (Jietai Si). Tanze Si is said to be older than Beijing and has a shady courtyard with two 30-meter-tall gingko trees known as the Emperor and Empress trees. According to legend Kublai Khan's daughter entered the temple's nunnery in the 13th century. One needs a car to reach these temples.

Xingang Port ( Bin Hai Xin Qu, Tianjin, China, 180 kilometers from Beijing and 50 kilometers from Tianjin) is the main cruise ship port for Beijing. China. The journey to Beijing takes around two to two and half hours. Tianjin Xingang (Tianjin Port) is the biggest man-made port in China. Ships and ferries run to Yantai, Dalian and Longkou in China and Inchon in Korea (every Thursday and Saturday) and Honshu in Japan (every Monday). During high tourism seasons, there are passenger liners from Japan and Europe arriving in Tianjin Xingang. If you want to go to Beijing from Tianjin Xingang, you can take a taxi to Tianjin Train Station and then take trains to Beijing, both fast and convenient. Tianjin Port Inquiring Tel: 022-25213380 Tianjin Port Ticket-selling Tel: 022-23394290

Panshan Mountain

Panshan Mountain (88 kilometers from Chinese and 110 kilometers from Tianjin) is known as the No.1 Mountain East of Beijing. The home of Five Peaks and Eight Rocks, Panshan Mountain scenic area embraces quiet forests, temples, mountain peaks and lakes. In the Imperial era there were 72 temples and 13 pagodas and towers in the mountain, which attracted emperors, princes, officials and scholars. There are five major scenic zones and 30 tourist attractions in the scenic area.

Covering an area of 106 square kilometers (about 26193 acres), Mt. Panshan Scenic Area is located in Jixian County. As the name suggests, the scenic area is mainly Mt Panshan–oriented. Endowed with natural beauty and a historical heritage, Mt Panshan is known as 'The First Mountain East of Beijing' and is listed as one of the top fifteen mountains in China.

The mountain acquired its present name, early in the Eastern Han (25-220). Taizong, the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-906), was prodigal of his praise of its scenery on his chance visit when he led the army in a campaign. Seventy-two temples, thirteen pagodas and numerous Xanadus and towers were built on the mountain in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). Qianlong, a brilliant and wise Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) emperor was so impressed that he made thirty or so visits and wrote 1366 poems to express his admiration of the area. In the first half of the twentieth century, the whole resort all fell to ruin due to hostilities and neglect. It has undergone a process of restoration since the 1990s and is now regaining its fame.

It is famous for jade pine trees, strange and astonishing peaks, clear waters, unusually shaped rocks and clusters of ancient temples. On the mountaintop, numerous pines hide the sky from view and block out the sunshine. Rugged rocks in a variety of shapes, some of which resemble a toad, a general or a boa, will greet you in the middle of the mountain. At its foot, clear water splashes on the rocks. The mountain consists of five peaks, with the main one, Guayue (Moon Hanging) Peak. Although Guayue Peak is only 857 meters (2811.7 feet) above sea level, to the north it is possible to see a section of the Great Wall while to the west Mt Taihang can be seen.

From the Wei State during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280) onwards, emperors enthusiastically commissioned the building of temples, towers and Xanadus resulting in over 160 such sites. There are four main temples: Tiancheng Temple (God Proposing Temple), Yunzhao Temple (Cloud-Hiding Temple), Wanfo Temple (Ten Thousand-Buddha Temple) and Wansong Temple (Ten Thousand-Pine Temple). Tiancheng Temple built in the Tang Dynasty (618-906), was enlarged and repaired in the Ming and the Qing dynasties. To the east of this temple stands the Ancient Dagoba. As the biggest tower in this mountain, it has thirteen floors. The roof of the Yunzhao Temple was a golden yellow, a color that normally was only allowed to be used on imperial buildings. By granting permission for this, Emperor Qianlong demonstrated his approval and admiration of the mountain. Wanfo Temple (Ten Thousand-Buddha Temple) has 10,960 small Buddhas statues Admission: fee: 30 yuan; Hours Open: 09:00 to 16:50 Getting There: First take train to Jing Court and then catch the tourist bus there. The Train runs at 07:30 in the morning and 7:00pm in the evening.

Beijing Dabaotai Museum of Western Han Tombs

Beijing Dabaotai Museum of Western Han Tombs (15 kilometers southwest of Beijing's city center, Subway Fangshan Line, Station) is a museum constructed on the site of a unique 2000-year-old imperial tomb standing, the underground palace of Liu Jian, the Western Han (206 B.C.-A.D.24) Prince of Guangyang (73-45 B.C).

The restored coffin chamber for sightseeing has an entrance carved longitudinally on one side of the underground palace, sheltered by the earth mound and trees and retaining its solemnity and great antiquity. The spacious underground palace is unique in structure, built according to the standards prescribed for “a Son of Heaven” (an emperor) of the Han Dynasty, which include a coffin made of Chinese catalpa (Catalpa ovata) timber to be buried in an coffin chamber with cypress logs piled up against the walls and ranged on top to covering the ceiling. The museum has a collection of mote than 1000 items of funerary objects from the tomb and some unearthed relics from one of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) ruins.

On exhibition are the restored coffin chamber, cultural relics, a show of emperor tombs of different dynasties, and others. Tourists could imitate some archaeological research work or take part in activities that have something to do with the Han Dynasty civilization. Location: Southern Guogongzhuang, Fengtai District, Beijing, P.R.C
Tel: 0086-10-63736427

Ming and Qing Tombs: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, 2003 and 2004. According to UNESCO: “The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were built between 1368 and 1915 A.D. in Beijing Municipality, Hebei Province, Hubei Province, Jiangsu Province and Liaoning Province of China. They comprise of the Xianling Tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the Eastern and Western Qing Tombs inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000; the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty and the Ming Tombs in Beijing added to the inscription in 2003, and the Three Imperial Tombs of Shenyang, Liaoning Province (Yongling Tomb, Fuling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb, all of the Qing Dynasty) added in 2004.

“The Ming and Qing imperial tombs are located in topographical settings carefully chosen according to principles of geomancy (Fengshui) and comprise numerous buildings of traditional architectural design and decoration. The tombs and buildings are laid out according to Chinese hierarchical rules and incorporate sacred ways lined with stone monuments and sculptures designed to accommodate ongoing royal ceremonies as well as the passage of the spirits of the dead. They illustrate the great importance attached by the Ming and Qing rulers over five centuries to the building of imposing mausolea, reflecting not only the general belief in an afterlife but also an affirmation of authority.

“The tomb of the first Ming Emperor, the Xiaoling Tomb broke with the past and established the basic design for those that followed in Beijing, and also the Xianling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty in Zhongxiang, the Western Qing Tombs and the Eastern Qing Tombs. The Three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning Province (Yongling Tomb, Fuling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb) were all built in the 17th century for the founding emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their ancestors, integrating the tradition inherited from previous dynasties with new features from the Manchu civilization.

“The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are masterpieces of human creative genius by reason of their organic integration into nature, and a unique testimony to the cultural and architectural traditions of the last two feudal dynasties (Ming and Qing) in the history of China between the 14th and 20th centuries. They are fine works combining the architectural arts of the Han and Manchu civilizations. Their siting, planning and design reflect both the philosophical idea of “harmony between man and nature” according to Fengshui principles and the rules of social hierarchy, and illustrate the conception of the world and power prevalent in the later period of the ancient society of China.”

The tombs are important because: 1) “The harmonious integration of remarkable architectural groups in a natural environment chosen to meet the criteria of geomancy (Fengshui) makes the Ming and Qing Imperial Tombs masterpieces of human creative genius. 2) The tombs represent a phase of development, where the previous traditions are integrated into the forms of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, also becoming the basis for the subsequent development. 3) The imperial mausolea are outstanding testimony to a cultural and architectural tradition that for over five hundred years dominated this part of the world. 4) The architectures of the Imperial Tombs integrated into the natural environment perfectly, making up a unique ensemble of cultural landscapes. They are the exceptional examples of the ancient imperial tombs of China. 5) The Ming and Qing Tombs are dazzling illustrations of the beliefs, world view, and geomantic theories of Fengshui prevalent in feudal China. They have served as burial edifices for illustrious personages and as the theatre for major events that have marked the history of China.

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs (45 kilometers northwest of Beijing) are not far from the Great Wall of China and one-day tour bus tours often stop at both places. This means that tombs are often crowded but at least the crowds are spread out over a larger area than they are at Badaling. The tombs are reached by following the four-mile Sacred Way which begins at a white marble gate and ends in a beautiful secluded ravine surrounded by trees. Many people find the tombs themselves to be disappointing but enjoy the walk and the lovely countryside.

The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644. The Ming Tombs are a group of mausoleums of 13 Ming emperors, their empresses and their concubines. The tombs are scattered across an area of 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) . Two of the tombs, Changling and the most famous, Dingling, an underground palace, are open to the public.

Among the amusements near the Ming Tombs are a museum with a wax Ghengis Khan, the Nine Dragons Amusement park, an aerospace museum, an archery and rifle range, a 350-room hotel, swimming pools, aquarium, a fountain with a 500-foot water-jet, a fishing pier and a bicycle racing velodrome. It possible to arrange take helicopter rides over the Ming tombs and the Great Wall. [Source: Lonely Planet]

Location: Changling Town, Changping District, Beijing 102213, Tel: +86 10 6076 1424 / +86 10 6076 1388 Websites: Official Site mingtombs.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage Site website : unesco.org . Getting There: The easiest way to visit is as part of an organized tour. Many tours combine a trip to the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs.Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

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Ming Dynasty

The Ming dynasty, the last native Chinese dynasty in China, ruled for nearly 300 years. Chinese science and technological inventiveness declined during this period and Jesuit scholars introduced Western science. Painting and ceramic production however thrived and the merchant class rose in status and power.

According to “The History of East Asian Civilization” The Ming Dynasty was “one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history." Ming rule saw the construction of a vast navy and a standing army of one million troops. There were enormous construction projects, including the restoration of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall and the establishment of the Forbidden City in Beijing during the first quarter of the 15th century. Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million. [Source: Oliver Pickup, Daily Mail, March 8, 2011]

”Ming” means brightness. The name was chosen by the first Ming Emperor as a contrast to the dark period in which the dynasty came to power. The Ming Dynasty was a time of economic growth and cultural splendor which produced the first direct commercial contacts with the West. During much of the Ming dynasty, China and India together accounted for more than half of the world's gross national product.

Contemporary sources on the Ming period are rare. Of the several million documents on the period once kept in the central government archives all but around 10,000 were destroyed in fighting at the end of the dynasty. By contrast 14 million original government documents remain from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Ming Dynasty Rulers (Name: Reign Title, Reign Dates): 1) Taizu: Hongwu (1368–98); 2) (Huidi): Jianwen (1399–1402); 3) Chengzu: Yongle (1403–24); 4) Renzong: Hongxi (1425); 5) Xuanzong: Xuande (1426–35); 6) Yingzong: 7) Zhengtong (1436–49); 8) Daizong: Jingtai (1450–56); 9) Yingzong *: Dienshun (1457–64); 10) Xianzong: Chenghua (1465–87); 11) Xiaozong: Hongzhi (1488–1505); 12) Wuzong: Zhengde (1506–21); 13) Shizong: Jiajing (1522–66); 14) Muzong: Longqing (1567–72); 15) Shenzong: Wanli (1573–1620); 16) Guangzong: 17) Taichang (1620); 18) Hsizong: Dianqi (1621–27); 19) (Ssuzong): Chongzheng (1628–44). *Restored to throne

Sacred Way and the Ming Tomb Tombs

The Sacred Way passes through Great Red Gate, a group of three great archways, each 120 feet high and 35 feet wide. Further along is the 30-foot-high Stele Pavilion, decorated with carvings of dragons and tortoises, and the famous Avenue of the Animals, featuring 12 pairs of stone animals, facing each other and kneeling and standing on either side of the Sacred Way. The animals include elephants, horses, camels, lions and two mythical creatures---a qilin (a dragon-like beast with deer antlers and a cow's tail) and a xiechi (a horned cat). The human figures look like generals. Continuing further visitors pass several rows of mandarin statues, a Dragon and Phoenix Gate and a seven-arch bridge to finally arrive at the tombs.

Two of the tombs, Changling and the most famous, Dingling, an underground palace, are open to the public. The mausoleums have been well preserved, as has the necropolis of each of the many emperors. Because of its long history, palatial and integrated architecture, the sites have a high cultural and historic value. The layout and arrangement of all thirteen mausoleums are very similar but vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures. It was originally built only as Changling, the tomb of Emperor Zhu Di and his empresses. The succeeding twelve emperors had their tombs built around Changling

Changling is the most magnificent and important of the tombs. Surrounded by lovely terraces, courtyard, garden, pavilions and gates, it is the largest in scale and is completely preserved. The total internal area of the main building is 1956 square meters. Zhu Di (The Yongle Emperor) reigned from 1402 to 1424. He was the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty and is regarded as one of the greatest Chinese Emperors.

Dingling is under ground and about 27 meters deep. It is the mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Yijun (the Wanli Emperor, 1572-1620), the thirteenth emperor who occupied the throne the longest during the Ming Dynasty. The tomb is surrounded by several buildings, courtyards, terraces and two museums. Inside the tomb are three rooms. The first one doesn't have much. The second one contains altars, funerary lamps and a throne. The bodies of the Emperor and his two empresses were kept in the third room along with various treasures. The Emperor's crown, his robe and the Empress's phoenix tiaras are kept in one of the museums

Qing Dynasty Imperial Tombs

Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty(120 kilometers from Beijing) are China's largest and best preserved tomb complex. Located at the southern foot of Changruishan Mountain and covering 48 square-kilometer, it contains the tombs of five Qing dynasty emperors, 14 empresses and 136 royal concubines. The most luxurious tomb belongs the Empress Dowager Cixi. The great hall of her tomb is decorated with white marble sculptures and stone steps decorated with dragons and phoenixes. Among the craved stone treasures found in the underground palace are coffin chambers, tablet towers and stone elephants.

In Heberi Province, there are Qing Dynasty imperial tombs at Zunhua (Eastern Qing Tombs) and Yixian (West Qing Tombs). The Eastern Qing Tombs are the resting place of 161 Qing emperors, empresses, and other members of the Qing imperial family, while the West Qing Tombs have 76. These are also part of a World Heritage Site.

The Eastern Tombs of the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911), located in Zunhua County, are surrounded by mountains and accommodate a plain in the center. Covering an area of up to 78 square kilometers the Eastern Tombs of the Qing Dynasty include five emperor’s tombs, four queens’ tombs, five concubines’ tombs and one princess’s tomb. In addition to Cixi Tomb, the Dingling Tomb, the Xiaoling Tomb and the Yuling Tomb.

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, 2003 and 2004. According to UNESCO: “The Three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning Province include the Yongling Tomb, the Fuling Tomb, and the Zhaoling Tomb, all built in the 17th century. Constructed for the founding emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their ancestors, the tombs follow the precepts of traditional Chinese geomancy and fengshui theory. They feature rich decoration of stone statues and carvings and tiles with dragon motifs, illustrating the development of the funerary architecture of the Qing Dynasty. The three tomb complexes, and their numerous edifices, combine traditions inherited from previous dynasties and new features of Manchu civilization. Website: qingdongling.com

Qing Dynasty

The Qing (Ching, Ch’ing, Manchu) Dynasty (1644-1912) was China's last dynasty. The Manchu emperors were unpopular because they were not Han Chinese, they descended from horsemen to the north and opened up China to exploitation from the West. Even so they made many improvements in the lives of ordinary Chinese and expanded China to its present size.

In the first year of the Shunzhi period (1644), the army of Qing attacked Shanhaiguan and took over the central power of China. Beijing was set as the capital. The Qing Dynasty founded by the ruling class of Manchus ruled China for over 260 years. During this period, the most outstanding emperors who contributed the most to history were Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong.

Maxwell K. Hearn of The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “In 1644, the Manchus, a semi-nomadic people from northeast of the Great Wall, conquered the crumbling Ming state and established their own Qing (or Pure) dynasty. During the first half of this period, the Manchus extended their rule over a vast empire that grew to encompass new territories in Central Asia, Tibet, and Siberia. The Manchus also established their hegemony over Chinese cultural traditions as an important means of demonstrating their legitimacy as Confucian-style rulers." [Source: Maxwell K. Hearn, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org \^/]

Qing Dynasty Rulers (Name: Reign Title, Reign Dates): 1) Shizu: Shunzhi (1644–61); 2) Shengzu: Kangxi (1662–1722); 3) Shizong: Yungzheng (1723–35); 4) Gaozong: Qianlong (1736–95); 5) Renzong: Jiaqing (1796–1820); 6) Xuanzong: Daoguang (1821–50); 7) Wenzong: Xianfeng (1851–61); 8) Muzong: Dongzhi (1862–74); 9) Tezong: Guangxu (1875–1908); 10) (Pui): Xuantong (1909–11).

Zhoukoudian

: Peking Man Site

Zhoukoudian (42 kilometers to the southwest of Beijing) is the home of a cave — where Peking Man was found — in a low hill called Dragon-Bone Mountain Declared an important National Cultural Protected Unit in 1961 and named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the site is set into a mountainside, with running water available nearby. Natural caves exist in these mountains. The weather was warmer in the Peking Man period. Pekin Man is believed to have lived here continuously for 300,000 years. Evidence of this habitation includes bones, stone tools, and traces of fire and other signs of occupation. {Source: China's Museums ++]

The main cave measures 140 meters from east to west and 53 meters from north to south. At twilight on a cold early winter's evening in 1929, archaeologists crawled into the space of this cave, using a candle for light, and found the famous Peking Man skull. Thousands of Paleolithic stone tools have been found in the Peking Man cave and neighboring caves. They come in many shapes and are made from several types of stone. Some of these can be seen in the exhibition cases of the museum. Through long periods of experimentation, Beijing Man became familiar with the different uses and chipping qualities of different kinds of stone. ++

In 1973, the so-called 'New Cave Man' was discovered at Zhoukoudian, where hominid remains dating to 200,000 to 100,000 years ago were found. Around 20,000 years ago, the humans living in the vicinity of Zhoukoudian were given the name Mountaintop Cave Man following the discovery of their remains in a cave above the Beijing Man Cave. Discovered in 1933, the cave contained some interesting artifacts, including an 82-millimeter bone needle, with a shiny surface, slightly arced in shape, and very sharp side. A very fine instrument was sued to hollow out a tiny hole. It is believed that Mountaintop Cave Man sewed and clothed himself with animal hides and leather. Among the other objects found at the site have been earrings, animal teeth with holes in them for stringing, fishbones, ocean shells, stone beads, and bones carved in particular ways. ++

The museum has mainly been set up for research purposes. In storage are more than 3000 articles, consisting mainly of animal bone fossils from the Peking Man period, stone artifacts and some traces of Peking Man using fire. Dioramas at the exhibition hall illustrate the region 400,000-500,000 years ago, when Peking Man is believed to have utilized the southward migration of deer and hunt other animals. Women and children are depicted plucking berries and fruit and gathering grains. ++

Location: 1 Zhoukoudian Dajie, Fangshan District, Beijing Web Sites: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage Site website unesco.org China.org China,org

Peking Man

Peking Man (Sinanthropus pekinensis) was not a single individual, but a species of Homo erectus who were very similar to modern humans, having a large brain, and similar skull and bone sizes, but who had heavy brows and large, chinless jaws. They lived between 750,000 and 200,000 years ago.

"Peking Man" refers to a collection of six complete or nearly complete skulls, 14 cranial fragments, six facial fragments, 15 jawbones, 157 teeth, one collarbone, three upper arms, one wrist, seven thighbones, and one shinbone found in caves and a quarry in Zhoukoudian outside of Peking (Beijing). It is believed the remains came from 40 individuals of both sexes. Both Peking Man and Java Man have been categorized as members of the hominid species Homo erectus.

The Peking Man bones are the largest collection of hominid bones ever found at one site and were the first evidence that early man reached China. It was first thought the bones were between 200,000 and 300,000 years old. Now it is believed that they are 400,000 to 780,000 years old based on dating the sediments in which the fossils were found. No chemical tests or research were ever done on the bones before they mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of World War II.

Paul Rincon of the BBC wrote: “The cave system of Zhoukoudian, near Beijing, is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in the world. Between 1921 and 1966, archaeologists working at the site unearthed tens of thousands of stone tools and hundreds of fragmentary remains from about 40 early humans. Palaeontologists later assigned these members of the human lineage to the species Homo erectus. The pre-war Peking Man fossils vanished in 1941 whilst being transported to the US for safekeeping. Luckily, the palaeontologist Franz Weidenreich had made casts for researchers to study." [Source: Paul Rincon, BBC, March 11, 2009]

Zhoukoudian: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Zhoukoudian was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987. According to UNESCO: The 480-hectare “Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is a Pleistocene hominid site on the North China Plain. This site lies... at the juncture of the North China Plain and the Yanshan Mountains. Adequate water supplies and natural limestone caves in this area provided an optimal survival environment for early humans. Scientific work at the site is still under way. So far, ancient human fossils, cultural remains and animal fossils from 23 localities within the property dating from 5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago have been discovered by scientists. These include the remains of Homo erectus pekinensis, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene (700,000 to 200,000 years ago), archaic Homo sapiens of about 200,000–100,000 years ago and Homo sapiens sapiens dating back to 30,000 years ago. At the same time, fossils of hundreds of animal species, over 100,000 pieces of stone tools and evidence (including hearths, ash deposits and burnt bones) of Peking Man using fire have been discovered. [Source: UNESCO ~]

“As the site of significant hominid remains discovered in the Asian continent demonstrating an evolutionary cultural sequence, Zhoukoudian is of major importance within the worldwide context. It is not only an exceptional reminder of the prehistoric human societies of the Asian continent, but also illustrates the process of human evolution, and is of significant value in the research and reconstruction of early human history. ~

“The discovery of hominid remains at Zhoukoudian and subsequent research in the 1920s and ‘30s excited universal interest, overthrowing the chronology of Man's history that had been generally accepted up to that time. The excavations and scientific work at the Zhoukoudian site are thus of significant value in the history of world archaeology, and have played an important role in the world history of science."

Chengde

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Chengde (230 kilometers northeast of Beijing) is China's version of a hill station. Situated in the mountains north of Beijing and built in the late 16th and early 18th century, it was where the Qing Emperors and there courts went to escape the summer heat and was discovered by Emperor Kangxi while on a hunting trip.

Chengde is considered one of China's ten most scenic spots. Also known as the Rehe Palace, it is situated at the bottom of hill-encircled basin and boasts 120 terraces, pavilions and towers that are laid out to harmonize with the basin's lakes and forests. Most of the buildings are simple structures and the gardens blend northern and southern Chinese gardening styles. The site was abandoned in the late 19th century after two Emperors died here.. The buildings for the most part survived the ravages of the Cultural Revolution,

The topography of Chengde is mainly divided into plateau and mountainous regions, including Yanshan, Yinshan and Qilaotushan mountains. The Luanhe, Liaohe, Chaobaihe and Jiyunhe rivers flow through the area. Chengde, originally called Rehe was once the summer resort capital of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). It holds rich culture related to this history as well as many historic relics dating as far back as the Neolithic Age in this city. Ethnic groups such as Xiongnu, Xianbei, Qidan, Nvzhen, and Mongols once led a nomadic existence here.

There is a small airport, chartered flights flying between Beijing and Chengde. There are railway and road links that connect Chengde with Tianjin, Shenyang, Baotou, Ulanhot, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia, City buses also provide access.

Web Sites: Official Site bishushanzhuang.com ; UNESCO World Heritage Site unesco.org Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Getting There: Chengde is accessible by train from Beijing ( 4 or 5 hours) and Tianjin and Shenyang. There are also buses. The only way you can visit in one day from Beijing is as part of an organized tour. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ;Travel China Guide Travel China Guide

Chengde Mountain Resort

Chengde Mountain Resort is the heart of and soul Chengde. Spread out over 1,500 acres and enclosed within a six-mile-long wall, it is a collection of stone and wooden structures built among landscaped gardens, groves of trees, gorges, ravines, paths, streams, rockeries, and meadows in the hills along the Wuli River. The building include temples, pagodas, salons and pavilions. Many contain small collection of jewelry, porcelain, jade, embroidered clothing and imperial objects d’art.

The Chengde Mountain Resort is the biggest royal garden in China. Also known as the Rdhe Temporary Imperial Palace, it used to be the place where the emperors of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) escaped from the summer heat and engaged in various political activities. The Resort accommodates mountains, plains, and lake. Among them, the 36 scenic spots named by Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) with four Chinese characters and the 36 scenes entitled by Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) with three Chinese characters are the most famous.

According to UNESCO: “The Mountain Resort (the Qing dynasty's summer palace), in Hebei Province, was built between 1703 and 1792. It is a vast complex of palaces and administrative and ceremonial buildings. Temples of various architectural styles and imperial gardens blend harmoniously into a landscape of lakes, pastureland and forests. In addition to its aesthetic interest, the Mountain Resort is a rare historic vestige of the final development of feudal society in China.” [Source: UNESCO]

The mountain resort is larger than the Summer Palace in Beijing. In 1790, when it was largely complete, there were more than 100 imperial structures, many of them made with unpainted wood. Some were used as bases for hunting, hiking and riding. The great palaces were intended to both house and impress foreign dignitaries that came to visit the Emperor here. The most impressive of these is Putuozongcheh Temple. Modeled after the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa Tibet, it was built from stone in 1771 and has 70 halls. Nearby are seven other major temples, all of them facing the Emperor's residence.

Chengde Mountain Resort: UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Chengde Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site is 1994. According to UNESCO: “The Mountain Resort of palaces and gardens at Chengde with its Outlying Temples is the largest existing imperial palace-garden and temple complex in China, covering a total area of 611.2 hectares. Built between 1703 and 1792 as the Qing emperors’ detached summer palace near the imperial Mulan hunting ground 350 kilometers from Beijing, it was a base from which to strengthen administration in the border regions. The 12 outlying imperial temples, some built in the architectural styles of the ethnic minorities, are distributed across the eastern and northern hills outside the palace and garden area. They fostered relations with the ethnic minorities and helped to safeguard the Mountain Resort. Every summer and autumn, emperors of the Qing dynasty including Kangxi and Qianlong handled military and government affairs of the country and received leaders of ethnic minority groups and diplomatic envoys from foreign countries here, and went north from here to hold the Mulan Autumn Hunting. Important historical events of the Qing dynasty took place here, and the historical sites and objects have witnessed the consolidation and development of China as a unitary multi-ethnic state. [Source: UNESCO]

“The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde is a classic masterpiece of Chinese palace architecture, gardening art and religious architecture.The landscape of the Mountain Resort is designed following the topography of natural hills and water. As an outstanding example of Chinese natural landscape gardens and palaces, it inherits and carries forward China’s imperial gardening tradition. By integrating elements of Han, Mongolian and Tibetan architectural art and culture the Outlying Temples crystallize the achievements of cultural exchanges and integration among different ethnic groups in the course of development of Chinese architecture.

“The manmade landscape of the Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples perfectly integrates with the special natural environment of Chengde, such as the danxia landform. Its natural and harmonious layout is a successful practice of the traditional Chinese geomantic culture (fengshui). As a representative of ancient Chinese garden design, it once exerted influence in Europe, and has played an important role in the history of 18th century landscape garden design worldwide. The landscape of the Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples is an outstanding example of Chinese integration of buildings into the natural environment, which had and continues to have a profound influence on landscape design. The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples represent in material form the final flowering of feudal society in China.”

Buildings in Chengde Mountain Resort

Incorporating the local terrain, more than 120 structures were built, including mansions, towers, palaces, houses, pavilions, temples, corridors and bridges. There are temples built in the architectural style of China's different ethnic minorities, gardens modeled after the ones on Suzhou, and lakes connected by a network waterways. There is even a miniature version of the Great Wall and grasslands with Mongolian yurts. Yurt hotels are one of the accommodation options at the resort. More hotels are located to the northeast.

Front Palace is where the Emperor lived and worked. It boasts rooms built of aromatic nanmu wood, the bed chambers where the Emperor slept with his concubines and a collection of imperial objects such as ornate fly whisks, marital arts weapons, and calligraphy brushes. The Hall of Refreshing Mists and Waves is where the imperial family stayed and the emperor met with his ministers. The Clear Green Pavilion is where musicians play classical Chinese music.

Temple of Universal Peace contains is a 75-foot-tall wooden statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, with 42 arms. The temple is built in a Tibetan style. Mongolian and Tibetan monks live in the Temple of Happiness and Longevity. . The Temple of Universal Happiness in a tantric temple. Worshiper pray to three giant statues that are said to bring wealth and health. Worshipers pray before a giant wooden mandala and a life-size statues of a couple having sex. It is considered the feminine yin for the male yang of sledgehammer rock.

According to UNESCO: “The layout of the 18th century, with all the attributes, including buildings, sites, stone sculptures, wall paintings and Buddhist statues are fundamentally preserved. It authentically presents the classic artistic achievement of gardening and temple architecture of China in the 18th century, and genuinely preserves the historic and physical testimony of the unity, consolidation and development of China as a multi-ethnic country. Therefore it enjoys a high level of authenticity.” [Source: UNESCO]

Sledgehammer Rock (on a hill east if Chengde) is a huge 120-foot-tall stone spire. A tantric temple has been built next to it. According to Chinese legend it was used by a dragon to plug a hole in the valley to keep the sea from moving in. There are many stories about the virility of villages in the area. According to legend if the rock ever falls down, the virility of the men will go with it.

Chengde’s 'Little Tibet”

The People Daily reported: “During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a group of special temples called the Eight Outer Temples emerged on the gently rolling hills around the Chengde Mountain Resort. They integrated the unique building techniques of the Han and Manchu people, as well as the Mongolians. The integration of different architectural styles symbolized the unification of China. The temples fully embody various ethnic characteristics. For example, Tibetan elements have been reflected by the Potaraka Doctrine Temple. [Source: People's Daily Online, December 23, 2009]

“The Potaraka Doctrine Temple is an imitation of Potala Palace in Lhasa. It is half the size of the palace in Lhasa and was built in 1771 to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Emperor Qianlong. The magnificent temple astounds everyone. Its roof is made from pure gold and one can climb to it and look down at the surrounding beautiful scenery. Despite the fact that there are some flags and prayer wheels at the top, the nearby green hills will make anyone realize that they are in Hebei, and not remote Tibet.

“Puning Temple means eternal peace. It was built based on the Samye Temple which is located beside Lhasa. Although there is no Tibetan butter tea and Buddhist devotees kneeling down to worship the Buddhas in the temple and the Potaraka Doctrine Temple, people there can still have the feeling that they are standing in Tibet. The smell of the incense sticks and the monks in red robes reminded me of my trip in Tibet.

Sven Anders Hedin (1865-1952) , the famous Swedish scholar and inventor visited Chengde during a tour in Asia in the 1920s. Entrusted by entrepreneur Vincent Bendix, Hedin sought to find a Lama temple in China to ship to Chicago in pieces. At last, he chose the Xumifushou Temple in Chengde, the imitation of the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. As local people refused to sell the temple to Hedin, he then decided to make life size replicas of the eight golden dragons on the top of the Xumifushou Temple. The imitation, called the Bendix Lama Temple, was finally transported to Chicago in 1933 and New York in 1939 for display at international exhibitions there.”

Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Rough Guide for Beijing, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in May 2020

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