By C A Coulson
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Trains from Beijing via the Xinglong valley can reach Chengde but not Mulan. In 1991 eight trains circulated daily between Beijing and Chengde, and the 256 kilometers (159 miles) of the journey on the express train took 4 hours and 28 minutes. 6 The train that inaugurated Chengde station did not come from Beijing and Hebei province but from Chaoyang and Liaoning province. The Qing seal was impressed on the landscape through the construction of the Emperor’s Road, a direct if expensive transportation link from Beijing to the center of the North China frontier.
8 The material of the book has been organized according to a concentric logic, which as it unfolds retraces the steps of the Qing reasoning about landscape. The rationale for choosing this logic is that it parallels that which directed the configuration of the landscape archetype expressed in the Bishu shanzhuang gardens. This introductory chapter consists of several invitations to tour a divided city. In the following chapters, Chengde will be presented as a military outpost, a ceremonial center, a hill station for the imperial clan, an icon of Manchu identity, the summer capital of the Qing dynasty, a materialization of dynastic policy, a stage for contemplation, a protected site with paramount significance for universal culture, and a miniature of the cosmos, not to mention a topic for scholarly inquiry.
The Manchu and Chinese versions of the album were given as gifts to the relatives and vassals of the Qing court. The album became more widely accessible when the poems and vistas were added to the chapters of the Chengde Gazetteer. The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors thus ordered the multiplication of visual elements (stelae, pavilions, vistas, temples) that referred to landscape archetypes of China and Central Asia. In doing so, they summoned to the defense of their enterprise arguments that were nearly specious.
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