The Potala Palace
The Potala Palace was known as the winter palace of the Dalai Lama. He resided in the Potala during the winter in Tibet and descended below to Norbulingka Palace to spend his summer.
Located at the sheer altitude of 3,700 m (12,100 ft), one can have a 360 degrees view of the Lhasa city. The religious and cultural significance of the palace is immense among the locals as well as foreigners, therefore, it is used as an ensemble or the image of Tibet.
The palace features 698 murals, nearly 10,000 painted books, various paintings, carpets, canopies, curtains, gold and silver porcelain, jade, and fine artifacts, as well as a large collection of sutras and important historical material.
The palace measures 400 m east-west and 350 m north-south, with an average of 3 m of stone walls. About 5 m high, (15 ft) thick at the foundation. It is believed that the molten copper was poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes.13 stories contain over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues.
The 5th Dalai Lama, Lozang Gyatso, began building a palace after spiritual advisor Konchog Chophel pointed out that the site was ideal as a government seat, located between the monasteries of Drepung and Sera and the old city of Lhasa.
The construction took 3 years to complete, and the interior along with furnishings took another 45 years to complete. The Dalai Lama and his ministers moved into the palace only in 1649.
The new palace got its name from a hill on Cape Comorin on India's southern tip — a holy rocky point for the benevolent bodhisattva, known as Avalokitesvara, or Chenrezi.
During the 1954 Tibetan rebellion against the Chinese invasion the palace was slightly damaged. UNESCO inscribed it into world heritage sites in 1994, and later Norbulingka and Jokhang Temple were added to the list as the extensions in 2001 and 2002.
The biggest section of the palace is the Red Palace which is completely devoted to religious prayers and spiritual purposes. It houses many intricate passages, hallways, chapels, shrines and libraries. With limited public access, the Red palace remains open for observations.
It consists of many sub-sections of the building, known as; Great West Hall, The Saint's Chapel, North Chapel, South Chapel, East Chapel, West Chapel, First Gallery, Second Gallery, Third Gallery, Tombs of former 13 Dalai Lamas.
White Palace is a part of Potala Palace comprising of living quarters, seminary and print house
White Palace is a section of the Potala palace comprising of living quarters for Dalai Lama, offices, seminary and a printing house. It was constructed by the 5th Dalai Lama and was expanded by the 13th Dalai Lama during the 20th century. A small section of the palace, it was used only as the quarters, along with housing the tomb of former 8 Dalai Lamas. Today, it's a part of the museum with public access.
- The first royal complex on Red Hill (Potala Palace's site) was built in the 7th century during the Tubo Kingdom.
- The Red Palace is 117 m higher from the ground and is completely separate from the White Palace.
- Tubo King SongTsang Gompo lived in the royal complex with his two consorts; Princess Bhrikuti (Nepal) and Princess Wenchen (China).
- Potala Palace is allowed less than 2,300 tourists and pilgrims to enter each day, so purchase your tickets 1 day beforehand to secure entry.
- Visiting the golden roofs costs an extra fee of 10 RMB. Taking photos inside the room also charges an extra fee.