Putuo Zongcheng Temple, the Little Potala Palace

By Rosie Wu, Nov 15, 2011

Located to the north of Mountain Resort of Chengde, Hebei Province, Putuo Zongcheng Temple is Buddhist temple complex built during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911). It is also known as the biggest and the most magnificent building in Eight Outer Temples of Chengde. The temple was modeled after the Potala Palace of Tibet; therefore it was named 'the little Potala Palace', featuring a fusion of Han and Tibetan architectural styles.




The Putuo Zongcheng Temple was built between 1767 and 1771 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in order to commemorate his 60th birthday, as well as provide Hebei with a temple of equal size and splendor as the Potala Palace in Tibet. This Buddhist temple was administered by the "Lifan Yuan", an administrative department for the affairs of ethnic minorities, hence the different combinations of architectural style which could be seen here.



Layout & architectural style


The Putuo Zongcheng Temple complex covers a surface area of some 220,000 square meters, making it one of the largest in China. It 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. A Big Red Platform is the principle construction of the temple. The platform, halls and pavilions are adorned with copper and gold tiled roofs, adding to the splendor of the site.


Most of the temple'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.


Function & value


In ancient times, the Putuo Zongcheng Temple served more functions than just Buddhist ceremonies and festivals; it was also the location that the emperor would gather meetings of different ethnic envoys from within the country.


As of 1994, the Chengde Mountain Resort and Eight Outer Temples (including the Putuo Zongcheng Temple) were announced as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China. Today, the temple becomes a must-see attraction and a symbol of Chengde City.