Potala Palace, Tibet

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Potala Palace

Potala Palace, Tibet is situated on Moburi or the Red Hill in central Lhasa. Named after Mount Potalaka, this palace is the highest ancient palace in the world.  The construction of the palace began in 1645 during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama and it took over 50 years to complete the project. The Potala Palace was the primary residence of the Dalai Lama until 1959 after which the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India amid riots against the Chinese military occupation of Tibet.

The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south covering over 13 hectares (32 acres). The stone walls are slopy and 3m thick on average. The base of the walls are thicker (5m) and filled with copper to help proof it against earthquakes. The Potala palace is thirteen storeyed with its highest point reaching 3,750 meters (12,300 feet) above sea level, towering 100 meters (300 feet) above the city of Lhasa. The Potala Palace comprises of two important parts : The White Palace and the Red Palace, surrounded by massive walls and gates. It has more than 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues.

The White Palace contains the main ceremonial hall with the throne of the Dalai Lama. His private rooms and audience hall are on the uppermost level. The palace contains 698 murals, almost 10,000 painted scrolls, sculptures, canopies, porcelain, jade, and fine objects of gold and silver, as well as a large collection of sutras and important historical documents.

The Red Palace or Potrang Marpo is part of the Potala palace that is completely devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer. It consists of different halls, chapels and libraries on many different levels with an array of smaller galleries and winding passages. There are also mausoleums of previous Dalai Lamas. The mausoleum of the fifth Dalai Lama stands five stories high. It is overlaid with gold, diamonds, pearls, and many other precious gems.

On the top of the Red Palace is golden roof group (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. The Potala Palace displays elaborate art works and murals. They tell many stories of the Dalai Lamas and the history of the Tibetan people, their customs and traditions. The wall frescoes depict the life and works of the fifth Dalai Lama. In addition to these there are ornate statues, sculptures, and Tibetan paintings.

Today the Potala Palace is a popular tourist attraction, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also recently named one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”. 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.

Potala Palace video

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