Framed by the rippled slopes of the Yunshan Mountains, the magnificent Imperial Mountain Resort in Chengde, 155 miles (250km) north of Beijing on the banks of the Wulie River, served as a summer season retreat for the Manchu emperors.

The complex had a dual function: part holiday home; part charm offensive. Potentially troublesome princes from the provinces were invited here to be pampered for a few weeks in the hope this would render them more amenable to the will of the empire. But whereas the Forbidden City impressed its vassals by a show of grandeur and implacability, the Mountain Resort did so with unabashed joie de vivre. 

Its centrepiece remains the sumptuous royal apartment. Kept as a museum, the buildings hold a wealth of art, furniture and everyday utensils that yield vivid insights into the luxurious lifestyle of the Qing court.

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