Summer with the Manchus
Hazy, rainy, a few hours drive from Jinshanling to the site of the Manchu summer capital in Chengde. A pretty ugly city, lots of construction including some very pricey townhouses. The weather was not conducive to exploring, and the interesting bits are not close to our hotel. (I did see a Rambow store that we drove past several times, but no SYP billboard.)

The summer palace grounds are extensive and quite lovely, even with the crowds and the rain. There are mainly groups of Chinese tourists, a few European or American groups. Peter, our local guide, has been teaching English for 28 years (so he says) and has written a book on the Big Buddha Monastery in Chengde; I suspect he has not added considerably to the standards of English literacy in China, however.
Chengde Summer Palace
The following morning we visited two of the many Buddhist monasteries in the city. The first is the "Big Buddha Palace", which has one of the largest wooden statues in China: actually a bodhisattva, Guan Yin, with 42 hands and 43 eyes. The statue is huge and absolutely beautiful. The temple is as much a cultural spot as functional (90 monks currently live here), and includes a "shopping district" with lots of "historical" shops and entertainers. Evidently the money changers in the temple parable has no Buddhist equivalent (or at least they are more open about their methods of financial support).

Borg Immortals
We next go to the Little Potala Palace, built in the Qing dynasty for visits by the Dalai Lama— who has never come. (Next door is a palace for the Panchen Lama, who visited once.) The former is a replica of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Lots of steps, and a combination of Chinese and Tibetan architecture. The most interesting aspect is the eave corner decorations on the large "golden" roof, which combines the usual mythical animals (always an odd number total) with very blocky mechanical motifs: a Borg Immortal in front replacing the usual guy riding a rooster. Cool but weird.
At the top level of the palace we are given little flags: red for health, yellow for prosperity, green for good fortune. Mine is green. For a small donation you can write your name on the flag, and a monk will attach it to a pole to be sent towards heaven. I raise our little group of flags up high (photos are taken).

Then lunch, and the drive back to Beijing for one night before we go west to Datong.
Chengde roofs
Buddhist blessing flags
Four languages
Chengde incense
Temple scenes in Chengde

Next: Night Life in Datong

Return to China/Mongolia 2007 Index