The Wanderings and Sad Fate of the Golden Temple

The Manchus who ruled China from 1644 to 1912 were strong believers in and generous patrons of Tibetan Buddhism. Various Manchu emperors sponsored and promoted the religion in various ways and one emperor had the whole Tipitaka newly edited, published and distributed to China’s main monasteries, a huge undertaking. In 1703 the imperial court decided to build a summer palace in Chengde, then called Jehol, some 250 km. north-east of Beijing to escape the dust and heat of the capital. Work on the vast palace continued for nearly 100 years and it came to include gardens and pleasure pavilions, artificial lakes and administrative buildings, pagodas, a hunting reserve and quarters for the huge staff needed to run and maintain the palace. In 1766, Qianlong, the greatest of the Manchu emperors and a deeply religious man, wanted to build a Buddhist temple in the palace complex that would be worthy of it. There were already several temples and even a monastery there but Qianlong wanted this one to be for his own private use.



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