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By Surendranath DASGUPTA

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3 Charmed by its lakes, woods, spring, and prairie, travelers have often compared the summer residence of Chengde to a smiling oasis surrounded by the severe hills of Jehol. Located not far from the ruins of the Mongol Yuan summer capital of Shangdu (Coleridge’s Xanadu), the built landscape of Chengde has inspired court poets and painters. Coleridge, of course, had not visited the city of Shangdu, which was a field of ruins when he wrote his famous poem. He instead fell asleep while reading Marco Polo’s narrative and saw in his dream Khubilai’s summer residence.

Techniques for transforming landscape into spectacle that had already been developed by the Chinese gentry of the Jiangnan region were applied in the layout of vantage points at the hill station. Qing emperors chose to employ these techniques because they were well suited for the spectacular administration of their empire and not because of the Chineseness of most of these techniques. A theoretical question arises concerning the spectacle of architectural metaphors and the political message that the emperor wanted to express through his landscape.

The tradition of hunting in Jehol that the Kangxi emperor began in the later decades of the seventeenth century was an important element of a general policy that downplayed the geographic importance of the North China frontier as a zone of division, as it led the way to the ritual reenactment of the establishment of Manchu power south and west of the region. The subsequent political submission of Jehol resulted in the formal integration of the frontier area into the central province of Zhili (present Hebei) and in the effective extension of the Chinese cultural landscape north of the Great Wall for the first time in twenty centuries.

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A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I.-V. by Surendranath DASGUPTA


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