Putuo Zongcheng Temple is one part of Eight Outer Temples in Chengde, Hebei Province during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The temple was modeled after the Potala Palace of Tibet, the old sanctuary of the Dalai Lama built a century earlier. Hence the Putuo Zongcheng Temple has been nicknamed the “Little Potala Palace”. Since it was modeled after the Potala palace, the temple represents a fusion of Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles. Many of its halls and pavilions are adorned with copper and gold tiled roofs, adding to the splendor of the site.
The entire temple covers 220,000 square meters, making it one of the largest in China. And it is a Qing Dynasty era Buddhist temple complex built between 1767 and 1771 by Qing emperor Qianlong to celebrate his 60th birthday and his mother's 80th birthday, to host nobles from the minority peoples of Mongolia, Qinghai and Xinjiang who came to join in his birthday celebrations.
Since it was modeled after Potala palace, the temple represents a fusion of Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles. The temple complex covers a surface area of some 220,000 square meters, making it one of the largest in China. Many of its halls and pavilions are adorned with copper and gold tiled roofs, adding to the splendor of the site.
Most of the complex’s 60 or so halls are Tibetan in style, with white walls and flat roofs. Han Chinese elements are present, too, however, creating a unique stylistic fusion. Today, the temple houses numerous exhibits of artifacts, from statues and furnishings to pottery and ceramics and Tibetan religious items.
The temple has great artistic value. A crystallization of the style and characteristics of ancient Tibetan architecture, the temple is made up of 50 Buddhist halls, scripture-reciting halls, monks’ living quarters, terraces and glazed ceremonial arches which rise and fall with the mountain slopes.
The temple, dedicated to Emperor Qianlong on his birthday in 1771, is an astonishing copy of the traditional seat of Tibetan power. It served as a symbol of the unifying power of the Qing Empire over a diversity of peoples and cultures. It is also reflective of the long-standing Chinese fascination with Tibetan Buddhismand Lamaism, which had a profound effect on China’s own cultural development. During the heyday of the Qing, the temple hosted many visiting dignitaries from the empires borderlands, including Mongolia and Tibet; even today, it's not hard to imagine the sense of awe that such visitors may have felt.
As of 1994, the Chengde Mountain Resort and Chengde’s Eight Outer Temples, including the Putuo Zongcheng Temple, were established as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today, the temple remains a site of tourism and local festivities.
Recommended Chengde Tour: 6 Days Beijing & Chengde Tour
(Attractions: Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Jinshanling Great Wall, Chengde Summer Resort, Putuo Zongcheng Temple, Puning Temple)