Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development

 

The Eight Outer Temples

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During the Qing Dynasty, Chengde was located on the border with lands inhabited by ethnic groups such as the Manchu and Mongols. To unite them and facilitate their leaders’ visits to the emperor, the Qing government constructed 12 temples around the Mountain Resort, modeled on the Lama temples in Tibet and Mongolia. Because eight of these were directly under the administration of the Qing government, and located outside the city of Beijing, they became known as the Eight Outer Temples. Today, all outlying temples around the Mountain Resort are jointly referred to as the Eight Outer Temples.

At the start of the Qing Dynasty, Tibetan Buddhism (also known as Lamaism) was prevalent in Mongolian and Tibetan regions (including Qinghai and parts of Xinjiang). Its many devout followers adopted Tibetan Buddhist doctrines as their spiritual pillar. Lama dignitaries were also political leaders of considerable wealth, and administrators of temples and seminaries. The Qing government adopted a conciliatory policy with the aim of enhancing management of the frontier area and safeguarding national unity. Respect for religious beliefs and local customs was integral to this policy and to consolidating relations between the central and local governments.

In 1713, Mongolian dignitaries proposed building a temple outside the Mountain Resort as a venue for the grand celebration of Emperor Kangxi’s 60th birthday. The emperor readily agreed. The Puren Temple (Temple of Universal Benevolence) and Pushan Temple (Temple of Universal Goodness) thus became the earliest to be built outside the Mountain Resort.

In the 10 or more years that followed, groups of Tibetan and Mongolian leaders and various foreign envoys paid visits to the Qing emperor to show their respect and participate in various ceremonies. The Qing government accordingly built 10 large temples in succession in Chengde, where dignitaries could participate in religious activities. These temples surround the Mountain Resort like stars twinkling around a full moon, an image wherein the Mountain Resort is symbolic of imperial power, the temples of the country’s different ethnic groups, and which as a whole signifies national unity and ethnic solidarity.

The temples are specifically Tibetan and Han in style, and some combine the two. Their construction features refined techniques which create an impression of imperial grandeur. They are regarded as models that combine the essence of Han, Tibetan and Mongolian architecture and culture.

China.org.cn


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