Tibetans also call this mysterious architecture the 2nd Putuo Mountain

Potala Palace, situated in the west part of Lhasa, is actually the the political center as well. It is of Tibetan characteristics, leaning against the huge mountain. The Potala Palace has earned the name “heaven of arts”, for numerous invaluable treasures are collected within. The State Council of the people’s Republic of China announced that the Potala Palace had been chosen to be one of the national cultural relic protection units in 1961. In 1994, it was listed as one of the World’s Culture Heritages by UNESCO.

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Potala Palace is located on the mountain of northwest Tibet Lhasa, Covers an area of over 130,000 square meters, more than 110 meters high, more than 360 meters from east to west, the height is 3650 meters above sea level. 13-story palace building is a large-scale castle-style construction. Whole building covers an area of over 100,000 square meters, having thousands rooms, is an important symbol of Lhasa. Every festival, Tibetan Buddhism Buddhists of all nationalities packed the gate, it becomes famous Buddhist shrine. In 1961, the Potala Palace became the first batch of national key cultural relics protection units by the PRC State Council announced. In 1994 the Potala Palace became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising

Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the “Three Protectors of Tibet”. Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjusri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Avalokiteśvara.

The site on which the Potala Palace rises is built over a palace erected by Songtsän Gampo on the Red Hill. The Potala contains two chapels on its northwest corner that conserve parts of the original building. One is the Phakpa Lhakhang, the other the Chogyel Drupuk, a recessed cavern identified as Songtsän Gampo’s meditation cave. Lozang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, started the construction of the modern Potala Palace in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel (died 1646), pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. The external structure was built in 3 years, while the interior, together with its furnishings, took 45 years to complete. The Dalai Lama and his government moved into the Potrang Karpo (‘White Palace’) in 1649. Construction lasted until 1694, some twelve years after his death. The Potala was used as a winter palace by the Dalai Lama from that time. The Potrang Marpo (‘Red Palace’) was added between 1690 and 1694.

The new palace got its name from a hill on Cape Comorin at the southern tip of India—a rocky bodhisattva of compassion, who is known as Avalokitesvara, or Chenrezi. The Tibetans themselves rarely speak of the sacred place as the “Potala”, but rather as “Peak Potala” (Tse Potala), or usually as “the Peak”.

The palace was slightly damaged during the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese in 1959, when Chinese shells were launched into the palace’s windows. It also escaped damage during the Cultural Revolution in 1966 through the personal intervention of Zhou Enlai, who was then the Premier of the People’s Republic of China. Still, almost all of the over 100,000 volumes of scriptures, historical documents and other works of art were either removed, damaged or destroyed.

The Potala Palace was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994

In 2000 and 2001, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka were added to the list as extensions to the sites. The number of visitors to the palace was restricted to 1,600 a day, with opening hours reduced to six hours daily to avoid over-crowding from 1 May 2003. The palace was receiving an average of 1,500 a day prior to the introduction of the quota, sometimes peaking to over 5,000 in one day. Visits to the structure’s roof was banned after restoration works were completed in 2006 to avoid further structural damage. Visitorship since the opening of the Qingzang railway into Lhasa on 1 July 2006, but the quota is often reached by mid-morning. Opening hours were extended during the peak period in the months of July to September, where over 6,000 visitors would descend on the site.

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Monasteries & Temples of Tibet   •   Locations & Activities


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