Potala Palace
Looking up to the towering Marpo Ri Hill in Lhasa, you will be stunned by the extremely splendid colors and extensive lay-out of the Potala Palace. It is a sacred place in the minds of Tibetans, as well as the symbol of Lhasa.
 
The Potala Palace is an immense structure, its interior space being in excess of 130,000 square meters. The White Palace is first and foremost the residence of the Dalai Lama and his large staff. In addition, it was the seat of Tibetan government, where all ceremonies of state were held; it housed a school for religious training of monks and administrators. Red Palace is one of Tibet's major pilgrimage destinations because of the tombs of past Dalai Lamas. Within the White Palace are two small chapels, the Phakpa Lhakhang and the Chogyal Drubphuk; dating from the seventh century, these chapels are the oldest surviving structures on the hill and also the most sacred. The Potala's most venerated statue, the Arya Lokeshvara, is housed inside the Phapka Lhakhang, and it draws thousands of Tibetan pilgrims each day.
 
Perched upon Marpo Ri hill, 130 meters above the Lhasa valley, the Potala Palace rises a further 170 meters and is the greatest monumental structure in all of Tibet. Early legends considered the hill on which Potala Palace erected to be the dwelling place of the Bodhisattva, which was used as a meditation retreat by Emperor Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century AD. In 637 Songtsen Gampo built a palace on the hill. This structure stood until the seventeenth century, when it was incorporated into the foundations of the greater buildings still standing today. Construction of the present palace began in 1645 during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama, and by 1648 the White Palace was completed. The Red Palace was added between 1690 and 1694; its construction required the labors of more than 7000 workers and 1500 artists and craftsman. In 1922 the 13th Dalai Lama renovated many chapels and assembly halls in the White Palace and added two stories to the Red Palace. Being the symbol and political and religious center of Tibet, Potala Palace attracts countless pilgrims and tourists from all over the world every year. In 1961, Potala Palace was listed in key national heritage conservation units. In 1994, it was enrolled in World Heritage.
 
 
The Great West Hall
The main central hall of the Red Palace is the Great West Hall which consists of four great chapels that proclaim the glory and power of the builder of the Potala, the Fifth Dalai Lama. The hall is noted for its fine murals reminiscent of Persian miniatures, depicting events in the fifth Dalai Lama's life. The famous scene of his visit to Emperor Shun Zhi in Beijing is located on the east wall outside the entrance. Special cloth from Bhutan wraps the Hall's numerous columns and pillars.
 
The Saint's Chapel
On the north side of this hall in the Red Palace is the holiest shrine of the Potala. A large blue and gold inscription over the door was written by the 19th century Tongzhi Emperor of China, proclaiming Buddhism a Blessed Field of Wonderful Fruit. This chapel like the Dharma cave below it dates from the seventh century. It contains a small ancient jewel encrusted statue of Avalokiteshvara and two of his attendants. On the floor below, a low, dark passage leads into the Dharma Cave where Songsten Gampo is believed to have studied Buddhism. In the holy cave are images of Songsten Gampo, his wives, his chief minister and Sambhota, the scholar who developed Tibetan writing in the company of his many divinities.
 
The North Chapel
The North Chapel centres on a crowned Sakyamuni Buddha on the left and the Fifth Dalai Lama on the right seated on magnificent gold thrones. Their equal height and shared aura implies equal status. On the far left of the chapel is the gold stupa tomb of the Eleventh Dalai Lama who died as a child, with rows of benign Medicine Buddhas who were the heavenly healers. On the right of the chapel are Avalokiteshvara and his historical incarnations including Songsten Gampo and the first four Dalai Lamas. Scriptures covered in silk between wooden covers form a specialized library in a room branching off it.
 
Admission fee: 200RMB/person (Peak season); 100RMB/person (Low season)
Opening hours: 9:00-19:00
 
 
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