Hidden Gem - Guiness Book Of Records Rated.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of China  , Hebei,
Thursday, April 21, 2011

We had a mission in mind to see two more UNESCO World Heritage sites in the vicinity of Beijing, and to see Tianniman Square (which we had missed last time in Beijing) before our departure in three days time for Mongolia and Russia by train. This meant a pretty tight schedule, so it was an early 5 am wakeup call on the first day, to catch a four hour train to the city of Chengde. China city names are so confusing in their similarities! We have already been to Chengdu and there is a city Changdu and now we go to Chengde!

Our delightful guide Roy, met our train and took us to lunch first, then to the Summer Mountain Resort of the Chinese Emperors of the Manchurian era. This amazing complex of palaces, temples, lake and landscaped gardens, was for nearly 150 years (between 1703 and 1861) the most important place outside Beiijng for the Emperors to handle military and ethnic affairs. We spend a wonderful afternoon wandering around the site and learning the history.

We stayed in Chengde that night and next morning Roy took us out again for a busy morning of sightseeing before we caught our train back to Beijing. Unfortunately the rain set in but with our coats and an umbrella lent to us by Roy's girlfriend (a guide with another group), we soldiered on. We have seen a lot (a huge lot!) of Buddha’s in our travelling life, but were absolutely stunned by Chengde’s Buddah in Puning Temple. The Guinness Book of Records lists it as the largest wooden Buddha in the World, at 27.21 metres high and weighing 110 tonnes. Now we are in China, the yak butter smell has gone from the temples and Monasteries with all the Buddha statues seeming to have happier faces.

We visited an amazing 1/3 replica of the Potala Palace. The Emperor of the time had visited Tibet and decided he wanted a Potala Palace lookalike. He also decided that he would like to have it built to celebrate his and his Mother’s birthdays and to invite the Dali Lama from Tibet and also the reigning power from Mongolia. All went to plan, and the Dali Lama took 13 months to travel from Tibet, across China to Chengde, for the occasion. 

It is an amazing size, even though only 1/3 of the Potala Palace. On finally reaching the top floor the guide had an interesting story for us. During the time China was occupied by Japan, Japanese soldiers were ordered to scrape all the gold off the roof. It was extremely hard to do, with a steep roof slope and so high up. The Japanese, being Buddhists themselves were not keep on the job of desecrating a sacred place and then one of them fell to their death. It was seen as a sign of displeasure by the gods and the Japanese soldiers refused to work anymore on the roof. It is quite obvious where the work began and ended.

Before heading off to the train we went to a place where they do Chinese papercutting. This is an amazingly intricate art, which we could see happening. Chinese decorate up the wedding invitations and reception room with papercutting designs for good luck.

Footnote: Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde are UNESCO World Heritage listed.
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