hebei introThis small city in the craggy mountains north of Beijing used to shelter Qing Dynasty notables (including the empress dowager Ci Xi), from Beijing’s summer heat. The inner city is like something fresh out of the mountains, and most of the locals have seldom seen foreigners. But the city is surrounded by things for travelers to see: the Emperor’s Summer Mansion, Buddhist Temples and hills to climb. It’s also, on average, cooler than Beijing in the summer.



About 225 km from Beijing


This 18th century Imperial resort is located northeast of Beijing.

Useful Information

The Bank of China is situated on the north side of Zhonghua Lu. The main Post Office is on Nanyingza Lu.

Transportation options:

Take train 613 from the main Beijing Railway Station (soft bunk recommended), 62 RMB per person. Unlike other overnight trips, the 613 does not pre-sell bunks. So at the gate everyone merges with the rawer, pushier elements of society to glom into the green hard seats. Those who want to upgrade may approach the train attendant with their requests. Sleepers seldom sell out. This train is one of the older specimens and does not offer air conditioning. On return, take train Y226 back to Beijing. Traveling by day affords views of large mountains, river canyons and farms. Soft seats are available. Since this ride is by day, sleeping cars are not necessary.

Suggested Itinerary

Preparation: Allow a budget of between RMB600-700 per person.

Day One

23:40 Depart Beijing main railway station. Take train 613 from the main Beijing Railway

Station (soft bunk recommended), 62 RMB per person.

Day Two

4:40 Arrive Chengde. Spend the pre-dawn hours checking into a hotel and catching up on some sleep. A taxi from the train station to most hotels is between RMB5 and RMB10.

12:00 Lunch. There is a maze of market streets just northeast of the bridge from the railroad station featuring single chamber, cement-floor restaurants serving thick noodles topped a la what you want.

13:00-17:00 Afternoon exploring Chengde’s major attraction, the “Imperial Palace”

18:00 Dinner in one of the city’s small traditional Chinese restaurants.

Day Three

9:00 Set out to explore Chengde’s collection of Buddhist Temples. The easy way to reach the temples is by taxi. You can walk between each temple and admission is between RMB10- RMB15.

11:00-14:00 Investigate Sledgehammer Rock, reached by taxi or bus No. 11 to the rock’s cable car entrance. Admission is RMB15 and the lift ticket is RMB20. Follow this with a quick bite to eat at the tea house at the bottom of the cable car.

14:40 Take train Y226 back to Beijing. the views by day are incredible- large mountains, river canyons and farms. A seat (as opposed to a sleeper cabin) should be sufficient for this trip.

18:40 Arrive at Beijing South Railway Station.


A string of decent hotels overlook the river. Among them is the 220-room Yun Shan Fan Dian, where double rooms go for RMB400 per night (Nan Yuan Road No. 6) and the Chengde Guesthouse for Diplomatic Missions, where most of the 93 rooms sell for RMB380 per night (Wulie Lu near the railroad bridge).Inside the emperor’s playground (Chengde’s main attraction), is a Qing-style hotel, the Qiwanglou. The 27 rooms here sell for RMB500 per night. Even though you check in at 5 a.m., most hotels will let you stay until noon the next day for one night’s fare.


A maze of market streets just northeast of the bridge to the railroad station features single chamber, cement-floor restaurants serving thick noodles topped a la what you want. One example is the “Zhi You” restaurant on No. 2 Hutong. A bowl of noodles costs RMB5. Chengde is full of small traditional Chinese restaurants. They offer standard northern fare and the unusual complementary service of a private dining room — freedom from stares, drunken laughter and cigarette smoke. The Shui Yun Xiang restaurant on Nan Yuan Lu, is a good place to start your culinary explorations. The duck, lamb and vegetable dishes here cost about RMB25 per person.


The Imperial Summer Villa

Spend an afternoon at Chengde’s major attraction,the “Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat,” or the Imperial Summer Villa. This place is partly a dynastic relic and partly a park. The relics, mostly made from dark hardwood, include the halls, rooms and breezeways where Ci Xi lived and indulged in clothes and jewelry, which visitors can see. Travelers who have visited Beijing’s Summer Palace will see parallels in the architecture, especially the small sculpted rooftop animals and color schemes on the cross beams. A lake dominates the park portion of the retreat. Lotuses and pines grow around here and extend into the low surrounding hills. Trails also lead into the hills, where explorers can find a welcome respite from lakeside crowds. Hilltops also give way to views of new Chengde, another Chinese city chronically under construction, as well as the contorted mountain peaks outside town. A two-part pagoda and a field of Mongolian yurts — shops selling Mongolian regalia — add to the appeal. Admission is RMB50 per person. Taxis and buses go to the gate from throughout the city.

Sledgehammer Rock

This errant piece of topography is a club-shaped knob, 15 meters in diameter, sticking straight up from a small, windy mesa. The brochure says the rock is 596 meters high, but observations suggest this distance also includes the mesa, which rises from a hilly landscape of forests and row crop fields. The rock itself is probably 50 meters high, but this is no easy feat! The rock can be seen from all over town, and travelers constantly approach the rock to rub the sides (apparently this brings good luck), and to look down on the rest of Chengde as well as various knobs and crags that go out to all horizons. Take a cab or city bus No. 11 to get to the rock’s cable car entrance from the city. A lift ticket is RMB20; taking a foot trail through the farms and forests, a 45-minute walk, costs nothing. Admission, regardless of transportation, is RMB15. Bottled water is sold along the upper stretches of the walk. A restaurant at the bottom of the cable car serves a quick pot of tea, a plate of peaches and lettuce leaves dipped in a salty bean sauce.

The Buddhist Temples

Besides the summer resort, Chengde’s main attractions are Sledgehammer Rock and a strip of Buddhist temples on a forested slope behind the resort. The eight temples are all terraced and banked into a hill. Going back to the master hall may require climbing several outdoor flights of stone steps. The Pu Tuo Zong Sheng Temple, is a brick monolith that looks almost Tibetan. Buddha replicas are small but expressive and colorfully painted. Incense burning is optional. Taxis service the temples, but it’s possible to walk from one temple to the next. Admission to each one costs RMB10 or RMB15. A market on the street outside the temples serves soup, sodas and other snacks.

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