As the capital of China for the last six hundred years, Beijing is blessed with many huge and elaborate royal gardens. Surprisingly, it can not lay claim to the largest surviving royal garden. The 1380-acre-plus Imperial Summer Villa is in a small city called Chengde about 160 miles to the northeast of Beijing. Since I have never been there even though I lived in Beijing for over ten years, I made sure to include this garden on my trip back to China in October.
This garden got its start as a rest stop en route to a big patch of royal hunting ground further north. Because of its combination of hills, rivers, and hot springs, Emperor KangXi decided to build a garden resort here in 1703. A word-by-word translation of its Chinese name shown above is “Escaping Summer Heat Mountain Villa”. This gigantic garden has four main areas: the palaces, the mountains, the plains, and the lakes. Each area has its own distinctive style and buildings, and the overall effect is a vast splendid resort full of scenaries and activities. Shown left is an aerial view of the lake area with several dykes and islands that divide up a big lake into many fascinating small lakes.
Here are some glimpses of this masterpiece. Below from left to right are: Palace area with groves of Pinus tabulaeformis, whose barks look like dragon scales; Tower of Yong An temple near the plain area; Man-made peaks within Wen Jin Ge, a royal library.
The next three photos are from the lake area and they are all modeled after famous landmarks and gardens in the Yangtze river delta area. From top to bottom, they are: Tower of Mist and Rain; Gold Hill; and Rainbow bridge in Lion Grove Garden.