Chengde’s stunning beauty leaves you in no doubt as to why it was chosen as a summer retreat during the imperial Qing dynasty. Nestled snugly among the verdant rolling hills to the north of Beijing, the town is washed by the Wulie River that flows past. Once the favored hunting grounds of the Qing emperors, centered around the imposing summer palace complex of Bìshǔ Shānzhuāng, today it remains a popular hill resort. The grand imperial gardens within the palace walls are the lands largest and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many of the sprawling 18th-century villas within the palace complex have been turned into public museums and libraries. The World Heritage area also includes eight Buddhist temples on the hillsides beyond the city walls. These temples are known to have hosted various political dignitaries during the imperial era, including the Panchen Lama.