Chengde was originally known as Rehe and in Europe as "Jehol".
CHENGDE DURING THE QING DYNASTY:
In the early years of the Qing Dynasty, Rehe or the village of Chengde, served as one of the many favored hunting grounds of the Emperor and his Imperial Court. Serving in this role, it was not an especially rare place, however - the village and the surrounding wild lands and forest were considered an Imperial Estate, which means that normal average day citizen were banned from the territories, although naturally poaching occurred. Overtime, with the Nation gradually pacified and a sense of normalcy returning to the Qing Empire, the Chengde hunting grounds rose in importance.
In the year 1703 AD, during the Kangxi Reign of the Qing Dynasty Era (1644 AD - 1911 AD) Chengde or Jehol as it was known then became the official site of an Imperial Summer Palace. There was another Summer Palace (the Garden of Perfect Brightness - Yuan Ming Yuan) just outside of the walled city of Beijing, the Imperial Capital but the Chengde Palace had a special and unique function and background. The main reason for this special function lies in the fact that the Qing were in essence a foreign Dynasty. They were Manchus i.e. people from the North-Eastern Regions and the great thing about Chengde was that it lay just strategically situated between Beijing and Manchuria. In fact, the city and Palace are located just outside of the Great Wall of China, which during the later years of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) had all been part of Manchuria, their native country.
After the Manchu invasion of China beyond the Great Wall and the establishment of their Rule, the Chengde Palace quite literally became pivotal in the relations of the two countries within a larger Empire. Thus, the chosen location of the Palace was very much symbolical in nature. It had to have great Feng Shui, but be of practical use as well. It was just the right location within the right surroundings. When the Emperor and his Court arrived in Chengde in order to escape the paralyzing heat of the Capital Beijing, Chengde - nothing more than a rural town with a Palace, became the political center of the entire Chinese Empire. In addition, after its establishment by the Kangxi Emperor (Reign: 1661 AD - 1722 AD), the Palace and city also became the most important diplomatic center of the realm, a place where, in a decor more befitting to the nomadic peoples living alongside the borders of the Empire, large scale and lenghty negotations could take place. In history Chengde was therefor often turned into a large nomadic encampment of Tents, and official envoys of allied or enemy tribes could be received at the Palace, whereas reverence and respect were payed to their various beliefs by erecting the eight large outer temples, place where religious ceremonies could underpin the diplomatic accors signed and the tentative friendships started.
At some distance from the town and the Imperial Palace lay the Imperial Hunting grounds where the Emperor and his guests could enjoy their hunting, meanwhile showing off and/or building personal friendships and admirations.
The city of Jehol, as it was known to the Manchu, reached its height in the Reign period of the Qianlong Emperor (1735 AD - 1796 AD). The great monastery temple of the Potala, loosely based on the Potala in Lhasa, was completed after just four years of work in 1771. It was heavily decorated with gold and the emperor worshipped in the Golden Pavilion built atop its roof platform. In the temple itself a bronze-gilt statue of Tsongkhapa, the Reformer of the Gelugpa sect was enshrined. However, the statue was attacked and demolished during the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966 AD - 1976 AD) and for political reasons (The Gelugpa sect is the sect of the exiled Dalai Lama of Tibet) no statue has been replaced it since.
During the Reign of the Xian Feng Emperor (1850 AD - 1861 AD) of the Qing Dynasty Chengde remained favorite as the Imperial "Summer Palace" however it became the semi-permanent home of the Court upon the launching of a Foreign Invasion of Tianjin and Beijing during the second opium war (also known as the Arrow War). Having fled to his beloved Jehol, the Emperor had been saved from capture at Foreign and Barbarian hands, however his Palace was still desanctified when he was forced to sign the humiliating Tianjin Treaty which extorted yet more cash, land and other special favors from the reeling Qing Court. It was such an astounding shock to the Nation, Court and Emperor, that the latter, already a weak and frail minded person fell ill, never to recover.
At the end of the drama, the Xian Feng Emperor died at his Jehol Palace, his last deed leading the nation further down the path of destruction.
In a story often told by tourguides (See also: "Summary History and Descendancy of the Qing Dynasty") the Lady Yehonala managed to pry a crucial favor from the ailing Emperors hands. Upon his death she would become an Empress-Dowager, a position which she would use to stage a Coup D'Etat which would allow her to control state affairs until her death in 1908 AD.
Schematic Map depicting the area's of North-Eastern China overtaken by the Yi Ho Tuan Movement of 1900 AD (The Boxers).
Nearing the end of the Qing Dynasty, during final foreign invasion in the showdown of the 1900 AD "Boxer War" Chengde once more became the focus of Royal attention when it was selected as the immediate destination for the flight of the Empress Dowager out of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) and the City of Beijing. It seemed the Fleeing the Heat Mountain Villa would once more see a period of blossom as the location of the Qing Court as it was in Manchuria, and the surrounding countryside was symapthetic and populated with the "Boxer Rebels". However, after rumors spread that Foreign Armies were already advancing to cut off the road from Beijing, a new route was chosen leading the Imperial Court of the Empress-Dowager and the enslaved Guangxu Emperor north-west ward to the Datong and henceforth to Xi'An in the south-west to sit out the political turmoil.
CHENGDE DURING THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA (1912 AD - 1928 AD):
Under the Republic of China, Chengde was the capital of Rehe province a region which found itself increasingly under pressure from Japanese interests and later outright encroachment
upon the regions.
CHENGDE IN THE SINO-JAPANESE WAR:
Chengde, which had been in Japanese hands since 1937 AD, when a new limited Japanase advance came from Manchuria and across the Great Wall into Hebei Province.
During the year 1945 AD when the Japanese Empire was struggling for survival the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) invaded North China and on their way to capture the important mineral riches and heavy industries of Manchuria reached the City of Chengde. In their wake followed the troops of the Chinese Communist Party, who under Leadership of Mao Zedong, did their very best to gain as much Chinese Territory as possible in preparation for the next war. The war of the communist against the nationalist Party, Kuomintang. This particular move was strategically very important as it would prove later that the opening battles of the second Chinese civil war would take place in the North and North-East.
Map Chengde Fleeing the Heat Mountain Villa (Bishu Shanzhuang)
The hand drawn map provides an overview of the so-called Chengde Summer Palace a.k.a. the Fleeing the Heat Mountain Villa of Chengde in Hebei Province.
The map depicts the grounds of the Palace proper in the south, the location of each major structure and pavilion with the Chengde Imperial Gardens (the largest such prserved gardens in China today) as well as the ring of adjoining Temples, the so called eight outer temples. Landmarks and locations are marked on the map with colored dots, providing link-throughs to further information, photos and details.
CLICK MAP AND LOCATIONS TO GO TO FULL IMAGE AND AVAILABLE INFORMATION !!