Chengde is a prefecture-level city in Hebei province, People's Republic of China, situated northeast of Beijing. It is best known as the site of the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden formerly used by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Today the city is a popular tourist destination.
In 1703, Chengde was chosen by the Kangxi Emperor as the location for his summer residence. Constructed throughout the eighteenth century, the Mountain Resort (避暑山庄; literally "avoiding the heat mountain villa") was used by both the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors. Since the seat of government followed the emperor, Chengde was a political center of the Chinese empire during these times.
Under the Republic of China, Chengde was the capital of Rehe province. From 1933 to 1945 the city was under Japanese control as a part of the Manchurian puppet state known as Manchukuo. After World War II the Kuomintang regained jurisdiction. In 1948, the People's Liberation Army took control of Chengde. It would remain a part of Rehe until 1955, when the province was abolished, and the city was incorporated into Hebei.
There are few foreigners in Chengde; the city receives far fewer foreign tourists than many better-known Chinese cities. The city proper has around 300,000 people as of 2008.
The elaborate Mountain Resort features large parks with lakes, pagodas, and palaces ringed by a wall. Outside the wall are the Eight Outer Temples (外八庙), built in varying architectural styles drawn from throughout China. The best-known of these is the Putuo Zongcheng Temple, built to resemble the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The resort and outlying temples were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The nearby Puning Temple, built in 1755, houses the world's tallest wooden statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.
Chengde's older name of Rehe (or Jehol) came from the name for the local river (热河; Pinyin: Rèhé) which translates as "hot river." The river was so named because it did not freeze in the winter. Most sections of the river are currently dry because of a new damming project.
Another popular attraction of the Chengde area is Sledgehammer Peak (磬锤峰), a large rock formation in the shape of an inverted sledgehammer. A variety of other mountains, valleys, and grasslands lie within the borders of the city.