Tibetan Monasteries of the Manchus in Chengde 1994

Chengde 成德 (formerly Rehe 热河, also known as Jehol) was the summer capital of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, starting from the early eighteenth cen­tury. It is located in northeastern Hebei 河北, formerly southern Rehe Province, Manchuria. It contained eleven monasteries, eight of which survived. Several of the monasteries were modelled arch­itecturally after Tibetan and Dzungar monuments for pro­pagan­da purposes to show Manchu support of Tibeto-Mongo­lian Buddhism. The monasteries were already in disarray from the beginning of the twentieth century after the Boxer Rebellion, and they were all closed in 1939 during the war with Japan. The destruction of some of them started as early as 1958. They have been reope­ned starting in 1986, and ex­cept for one of them, there does not seem to have been much damage to those that have survived.

Chengde contains the following monasteries:

(1) Palchen Norbuling (dPal-chen Nor-bu-gling, Chin.: Puning Si 普宁寺) is a Manchu stylized imitation of Samye Monastery in Central Tibet. It has 55 monks, all of whom are Inner Mongolians except for one from Amdo and four Kokonor Mongols. Although the monastery is funded by the Chinese government and all the monks receive a govern­ment stipend, there is no required study of Leninism. This is the best place for Inner Mongolians to study Dharma, and the monks perform Gelug tantra rituals, such as Lama Chopa (bLa-ma mchod-pa) and Yamantaka, and also study their meaning. They also privately study debate with a teacher from Labrang in Amdo. This is the only monastery at Chengde that is allowed by the govern­ment to have monks and to function. All the others have been made into museums for tour­ists. Previously, it had four Datsang divisions.

(2) Potala (Po-ta-la, Chin.: Putuozongcheng Miao 普陀宗乘庙) is an imitation of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The fourth Manchu Qing Emperor Qianlong 乾隆 had a huge throne in the center of the main temple, in imitation of the Dalai Lama’s throne. This monastery is currently being repaired and rebuilt by the Chinese govern­ment.

(3) Tashilhunpo (bKra-shis-lhun-po, Chin.: Xumifus­hou Miao 须弥福寿庙) is an imitation of Tashilh­unpo in Shigatse.

(4) Yurde Lhakang (Yur-bde lHa-khang, Chin.: Anyuan Miao 安远庙) is an imi­tation of the Altun-de-yurt Sum (Golden Roof Monastery) at Gulja (modern day Yining 伊宁), the main Dzun­gar mona­stery of East Turki­stan, destroyed by the Manchus during the Dzungar-Manchu wars.

(5) Jampel Tsanden Lhakang (’Jam-dpal mTshan-ldan lHa-khang, Chin.: Shu­xiang Si 殊像寺), built in Chinese style, was for Manchu monks and was where the Chin­ese Buddhist canon was translated into Man­chu and, for propa­ganda purposes, called the Manchu Kanjur.

(6) Kunde Lhakang (Kun-bde lHa-khang, Chin.: Pule Si 普乐寺) is built like a three-dimen­sional mandala of Cakrasamvara, with a huge statue of this deity in the cen­ter. Its central building, how­ever, is mode­led on the Temple of Heaven, the main Confucian temple in Beijing. It was built to promote national unity, and to demonstrate the harmony between Tibeto-­Mongo­li­an Buddhism and Chinese Confucianism.

(7) Puren Si 普仁寺 is the oldest monastery in Chengde and is built in a purely Chinese style.