If you're in Beijing and you want to get a taste of the excess of the Ching Dynasty, make a detour to the Summer Palace in Chengde. It will be very worthwhile!!! Check it out, that's me on a tree in the Summer Palace
In 1703, Chengde, (located approx 150 miles, 250km north-east of Beijing), was chosen by the Kangxi Emperor as the location for his summer residence. Constructed throughout the eighteenth century, the Mountain Resort (known in Chinese as Bishu Shanzhuang, literally "avoiding the heat mountain villa") was used by both the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors. Since the seat of government followed the emperor, Chengde was a political centre of the Chinese empire during these times. The town of Chengde built up to the south of the Mountain Resort and is a good place to stay overnight. The whole Resort can be divided into four areas: these are the palace area, lakes area, plains area and mountain area. Outside of this are the "Eight Outer Temples" of which Puning Temple with its 22-meter high Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara statue and Putuo Zongcheng Temple, modeled after the Potala Palace of Tibet, are the most famous. Chengde has a different feel to it than other large Chinese towns as it's fairly modern but with plenty of sights. More can be found on my Chengde page below:
Chengde has been the summerpalace of some of the Qing Emperors. The climate is nice and warm in summer and very cold in winter. Chengde lies about 200km north of Beijing.
I visited Chengde, when I studied Chinese. The trainride is quite nice, sometimes it goes along the Great Wall.