The Potala Palace Overview
Potala Palace, regarded as landmark and the symbol of Tibet, is a great giant palace consisting of many houses, towers, chapels, etc. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Potala Palace is the highest place in the world. Because of its spectacular architecture style, it is honored as one of the most beautiful architectural building in the world. As the historic ensemble of Lhasa, Potala Palace, together with the exceptional Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka is the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is not only a splendid place, but also a treasure house where you can see precious arts and learn Tibetan culture and history. Because of its brilliant arts and history, travelers see it as the No. 1 must-see attraction in Tibet. By climbing the steps up to the top, you can see the great views of Lhasa city as well as beautiful plateau landscape far away.
It was built at an altitude of 3,700 m (12,100 ft), on the side of Ri Marpo ('Red Mountain') in the centre of Lhasa Valley, which is situated between Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery and the old city of Lhasa. The building measures 400 metres (1,300 ft) east-west and 350 metres (1,150 ft) north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick, and 5 metres (16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen storeys of buildings, containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues, soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the "Red Hill", rising more than 300 metres (980 ft) in total above the valley floor.
Highlights of Potala Palace
As the symbol of Tibet, Potala Palace has many things worth seeing, the architecture of the entire construction, the splendid well-preserved artworks and various kinds of religious treasures and etc. By sightseeing all those highlights, you can trace back to old days and experience the glory of Tibet history.
History of Potala Palace
The palace is named after Mount Potalaka, the mythical abode of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The 5th Dalai Lama started its construction in 1645. 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 Red Palace
The Red Palace is the higher one of the two palaces and consists of several small chapels. This part of the Potala Palace was once the prayer hall of the Dalai Lama, dedicated to studying Buddhism and promoting its development. There are several mausoleums of Dalai Lama in the red palace. Each mausoleum was built in a solemn atmosphere. Located on the west side of the Potala Palace, the mausoleums of the fifth Dalai Lama (the patron saint of the Potala Palace) is five stories high and inlaid with gold, diamonds, pearls and other precious stones to express the people's high respect for the Buddhist saint.
The White Palace
The White Palace is home to the 10 consecutive Dalai Lama and his court. There are also Tibetan government offices, government conference halls and other official offices. The original white palace was built in 637 as a gift to his bride-to-be from the king Songtsan Gambo, but was destroyed in the 9th century. The fifth Dalai Lama built the present one on its site, and therefore the building pays homage to him to a greater degree than the previous or future Dalai Lama. When it was built in 1755, it became the summer home of the Dalai Lama and the White Palace became the winter palace of the Buddhist saint.
What's more, the culture relics inside the palace such as murals, stupas, statues, thangkas, and rare sutras are not only attractive, but also tell the story of Tibet. The golden roof group on the top of the Red Palace is worth seeing. Potala Palace has other annexes including the School of Buddhist Logic, the seminary, the printing House, gardens, courtyards and even the jail.
Taking flight to Lhasa Gonggar Airport is the first choice to arrive in Lhasa. Besides the airline, you can take the Qinghai-Lhasa Railway to the Lhasa Railway Station. With a distance of 70 km from airport to Potala Palace, you can take the airport shuttle bus within one hour. Get off at Minhangju Bus Stop. Or take bus No. 13 at Lhasa Railway Station and get off at Yaowangshan Caishichang Bus Stop. In addition, you can take Bus No. 8, 13, or 17 and get off at Baita Bus Stop; or take bus No. 2, 6, 7, 14, 16, 25, or 26 and get off at Lazhong Bus Stop.