High on Moburi means Red Hill, in central Lhasa, stands the world famous Potala Palace. It was built as the center of Tibetan government by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645. The chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. It was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. This amazing palace has the honor of being the highest ancient palace in the world, with its highest point reaching 3,750 meters or 12,300 feet above sea level, towering 100 meters or 300 feet above the city of Lhasa. This 13-stories-high palace has over 1,000 rooms, and covers over 13 hectares or 32 acres. The stone walls measure 3 meters or 10 feet)thick on average.
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The Red Palace is the higher of the two palaces, and is made up of several chapels. Used as a house of prayer by the Dalai Lama, this part of the Potala Palace was dedicated to the study of Buddhism and the advancement of the religion.
Housed within the Red Palace are several mausoleums of previous Dalai Lamas. Each mausoleum is built with stateliness and honor in mind. The mausoleum of the fifth Dalai Lama (the Potala's patron), located in the west of the palace stands five stories high, is overlaid with gold, diamonds, pearls, and many other precious gems, and expresses the high honor the people had for this Buddhist saint. [Text Source]
|At the rooftop of the Potala Palace. Image credit Wolfgang|
The golden roof group is a unique view of the Potala Palace. It's on the top of the Red Palace, composed of seven roofs made of gilded bronze. They are the tops of the holy stupas of the Dalai Lamas. Every golden roof is decorated with one to five flower-and-bell-shaped spires, which serve as lightning conductors. If you step out on the palace roof, you can see the blue sky and white cloud above your head and overlook the city. [Text Source]
|Inside Potala Palace. Image credit Bonski|
The White Palace was home to ten successive Dalai Lamas and their courts. Also located there are the offices of the Tibetan government, governmental assembly halls, and other official offices.
The original White Palace was built as a present from King Songtsan Gampo to his bride-to-be in 637, but destroyed during the ninth century. The fifth Dalai Lama built the current one on its site, and therefore, this structure pays homage to him in greater measure than previous Dalai Lamas or those that would follow.
After Norbulingka was built in 1755, it became the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, and the White Palace became known as the winter estate of this saint of Buddhism. [Text Source]
|The Potala Palace - A bright pearl on the roof of the world. Image credit Jackson Ng|
History of Potala Palace — This hilltop site above the city of Lhasa originally hosted the meditation retreat of King Songtsen Gampo, who built the first palace there in 637 in order to greet his bride Princess Wencheng of China.
Construction of the present palace began in 1645 under the fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, an important figure in Tibetan history. Known as the "Great Fifth," he unified Tibet and made the Yellow Hat sect the state religion. The White Palace was completed in 1648, after which it was used as winter quarters by the Dalai Lama.
Construction on the Red Palace was still underway when the Great Fifth died in 1682. Fearing the project would be abandoned, the monks kept his death a secret for 10 years until the Red Palace was completed. In the meantime, the Dalai Lama was impersonated by a monk who looked most like him.
In 1959, the current Dalai Lama fled to India amid riots against the Chinese military occupation of Tibet; he remains in exile today. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-77), the remaining monks were expelled and the abandoned palace was looted and damaged by Chinese soldiers.
Today, only a few monks are allowed to occupy the Potala Palace under strict supervision and Tibetan pilgrims are not generally admitted to the shrines. The Chinese government operates the palace as a state museum and has recently renovated the building to attract foreign tourists. Text Source
|Street view of the Potala Palace. Image credit Jackson Ng|
|Potala Palace, Chengguan, Lhasa, Tibet, China, 850000 Image credit Joao Leitao|