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 was the Qing dynasty's garden-type Imperial Palace and so has rich social, political and historical significance. The site represents in material form, moreover, the final flowering of feudal society in China.
Rehe Temporary Imperial PalaceIn order to strengthen its control of the Mongolian region and the defence of the country's northern borders, the Qing government established the Mulan Hunting Ground on the Mongolian grasslands, over 350 km from Beijing. Each year the Emperor would bring his ministers and his Eight Standard Royal troops, along with his family and concubines, to hunt at Mulan. To accommodate this entourage of several thousand people, 21 temporary palaces were built, among them the Mountain Resort (also known as the Rehe Temporary Imperial Palace) and it's Outlying Temples.
Building began in 1703 and the last project was completed in 1792, covering the reigns of three successive emperors of the Qing dynasty. The work was carried out in two stages: from 1703 to 1714 opening up the lake area, construction of islets and dykes preparatory to building of palaces, pavilions and palace walls; and from 1741 to 1754 addition of further palaces and scenic gardens. Between 1713 and 1780 the Outlying Temples were also being built. With the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911 the resort was abandoned; restoration work began after the foundation of the People's Republic of China.
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The Mountain Resort consists of the palace area and the landscape. The palace area, which covers 102,000 m2, is in the south part of the resort, and this was the area where the Qing emperors lived, handled administrative matters and held ceremonies. It originally consisted of four groups of buildings, including the Main Hall, Songhe Hall, Wanhe Songfeng Palace and East Palace; the buildings are in traditional simple Chinese style, but with imperial solemnity.
The Lake Area, which covers 496,000 m2 in the south-eastern part of the resort, is laid out in accordance with traditional Chinese garden design, based on Chinese mythology. There are eight lakes and several groups of buildings which create a landscape similar to that of the region to the south of the Yangtze River.
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The Plain Area, to the north of the Resort, covers 607,000 m2 and is divided into two parts - the western grasslands and the eastern forests. The former was used for horse-racing and the latter (also known as the Ten Thousand Tree Garden) was a political centre, used for receiving distinguished visitors. In the western part of the Ten Thousand Tree Garden is Wenjin Hall, one of the largest imperial libraries. Many other buildings are dotted around the landscape.
The Mountain Area, in the north-west of the resort, covers over 4 million m2 and consists of four large ravines: Zhengzi, Songlin, Lishu and Songyun. Only the ruins survive of the 40 groups of halls, pavilions, temples and monasteries that were once located in this area. The Outlying Temples were built to appease the ethnic minority peoples (Mongolians, Tibetans and others) and to strengthen the administration of the border regions. They consist of twelve lamaseries in different architectural styles.
The combination of the Han and Tibetan styles of architecture is a major feature of the other Outlying Temples (Punin, Puyou, Anyuan and Pule). The front parts of the temples are in Han style and the rear in Tibetan style. They are especially notable for the technological and artistic skills in the images that they house, such as the Shanglewang Buddha in the Pule Temple and the Goddess of Mercy in the Puning Temple.