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Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka (Lhasa, Tibet)

The Potala Palace (Tibetan: པོ་ཏ་ལ; Wylie: Po ta la, Traditional Chinese: 布達拉宮; Simplified Chinese: 布达拉宫; pinyin: Bùdálā Gōng) was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. In 2000 and 2001, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka were added to the list as extensions to the sites.

The Jokhang (Tibetan: ཇོ་ཁང་; Wylie: Jo-khang; Chinese: 大昭寺; pinyin: Dàzhāosì) is also called the Jokhang Temple or the Jokhang Monastery.

Norbulingka (Tibetan: ནོར་འུ་གླིང་ཀ་; Wylie: Nor-bu-gling-ka) is a palace and surrounding park in Lhasa, Tibet.

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Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka (Lhasa, Tibet) Location

The Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, and Norbulingka are located in Lhasa, Tibet. Lhasa lies at 29°41.76′N 91°9.54′E in an area known as the "Lhasa Valley"; even though the average altitude of the valley is well over 3,000 m (10,000 ft) the mountains around it rise to 5,500 m (18,000 ft). The Kyi (or Kyi Chu) River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, runs through the city.

Depending on how the status of Tibet before 1950 is interpreted, Lhasa can be regarded as the highest national capital at that time, surpassing La Paz, Bolivia, which currently holds that distinction.

Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka (Lhasa, Tibet) Attractions

The Potala Palace

The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after a failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace is a state museum of China. It is now a popular tourist attraction. The site was used as a meditation retreat by King Songtsen Gampo, who in 637 built the first palace there in order to greet to his bride Princess Wencheng (Chinese: 文成公主; pinyin: Wen Cheng Gong Zhu) of Tang Dynasty of China, which was incorporated into later buildings.[citation needed] The construction of the present palace began in 1645 under the fifth Dalai Lama Lozang Gyatso. In 1648, the Potrang Karpo (White Palace) was completed, and 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 name Potala is possibly derived from Mount Putuo, the mythological abode of Bodhisattva Chenrezig (Avilokiteshvara / Kuan Yin).

Built at an altitude of 3,700 m (12,100 ft), on the side of Marpo Ri hill, the Red Mountain in the center of Lhasa Valley, Potala Palace, with its vast inward-sloping walls broken only in the upper parts by straight rows of many windows, and its flat roofs at various levels, is not unlike a fortress in appearance. At the south base of the rock is a large space enclosed by walls and gates, with great porticos on the inner side. A series of tolerably easy staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leads to the summit of the rock. The whole width of this is occupied by the palace.

The central part of this group of buildings rises in a vast quadrangular mass above its satellites to a great height, terminating in gilt canopies similar to those on the Jokhang. This central member of Potala is called the "red palace" from its crimson colour, which distinguishes it from the rest. It contains the principal halls and chapels and shrines of past Dalai Lamas. There is in these much rich decorative painting, with jewelled work, carving and other ornament.

The Potala Palace Landmarks

White Palace
The White Palace is the part of the Potala Palace that makes up the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. The first White Palace was built during the lifetime of the fifth Dalai Lama in the 1650s then was extended to its size today by the thirteenth Dalai Lama in the early twentieth century. The palace was for secular uses and contained the living quarters, offices, the seminary and the printing house. A central, yellow-painted courtyard known as a Deyangshar separates the living quarters of the Lama and his monks with the Red Palace, the other side of the sacred Potala which is completely devoted to religious study and prayer. It contains the sacred gold stupas—the tombs of eight Dalai Lamas—the monks assembly hall, numerous chapels and shrines, and libraries for the important Buddhist scriptures, the Kangyur in 108 volumes and the Tengyur with 225. The yellow building at the side of the White Palace in the courtyard between the main palaces houses giant banners embroidered with holy symbols which hung across the south face of the Potala during New Year festivals.

Red Palace
The Red Palace is part of the Potala palace that is completely devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer. It consists of a complicated layout of many different halls, chapels and libraries on many different levels with a complex array of smaller galleries and winding passages:

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 Lamas 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 Chenrezi 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 Chenrezi 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.

The South Chapel
The South Chapel centres on Padmasambhava, the 8th century Indian magician and saint. His Tibetan wife, a gift from the King is by his left knee and his other wife from his native land of Swat is by his right. On his left eight of his holy manifestation meditate with an inturned gaze. On his right, eight wrathful manifestation wield instruments of magic powers to subdue the demons of the Bon faith.

The East Chapel
The East chapel is dedicated to Tsong Khapa, founder of the Yellow Hat sect. His central figure is surrounded by lamas from Sakya Monastery who had briefly ruled Tibet and formed their own sect until converted by Tsong Khapa. Other statues are displayed made of various different materials and display noble expressions.

The West Chapel
This is the chapel that contains the five golden stupas. The enormous central stupa contains the mummified body of the Fifth Dalai Lama. This stupa is built of sandalwood and is remarkably coated in 3,727 kg [8,200lb]] of solid gold and studded with semi-precious jewels. It rises for over three storeys and is almost 50 feet high. On the left is the funeral stupa for the Twelfth Dalai Lama and on the right that of the Tenth Dalai Lama. The stupas on the both ends contains important scriptures.

The First Gallery
The first gallery is on the floor above the West chapel and has a number of large windows that give light and ventilation to the Great West Hall and its chapels below. Between the windows, superb murals show the Potala's construction is fine detail.

The Second Gallery
The Second Gallery gives access to the central pavilion which is used for visitors to the palace for refreshments and to buy souvenirs.

The Third Gallery
The Third Gallery besides fine murals has a number of dark rooms branching off it containing enormous collections of Bronze statues and miniature figures made of copper and gold worth a fortune. The chanting hall of the Seventh Dalai Lama is on the south side and on the east an entrance connects the section to the Saints chapel and the Deyangshar between the two palaces.

The Tomb of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama
The tomb of the XIIIth Dalai Lama is located west of the Great West Hall and it can only be reached from an upper floor and with the company of a monk or a guide of the Potala. Built in 1933, the giant stupa contains priceless jewels and one ton of solid gold. It is 14 metres [46 feet] in height. Devotional offerings include elephant tusks from India, porcelain lions and vases and a pagoda made from over 200,000 pearls. Elaborate murals in traditional Tibetan styles depict many events of the life of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama during the early 20th century.

The Jokhang Temple

The Jokhang is a famous Buddhist temple located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa, Tibet, China. Along with the Potala Palace, it is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace" and a spiritual centre of Lhasa.

Jokhang temple was constructed by King Songtsen Gampo starting in the year 639. This temple has remained a center of Buddhist pilgrimage for centuries. In the past several centuries the temple complex was expanded and now covers an area of about 25,000 sq. meters. Jokhang temple is a four-story construction, with roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles. The architectural style is based on the Indian vihara design, and was later extended resulting in a blend of Indian, Nepalese, and Tang Dynasty styles. The rooftop statues of two golden deer flanking a Dharma wheel is iconic.

Jokhang temple complex has several decorated shrines and rooms. The main hall of the temple houses the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also statues of King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides, Princess Wen Cheng (daughter of Emperor Taizong of Tang China) and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.


Norbulingka served as the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until the PRC takeover in the late 1950s. The park was built by the Seventh Dalai Lama in the 1750s, and became the summer residence during the reign of the Eighth Dalai Lama.

The palace is located three kilometers west of the Potala Palace which was the winter palace. Additional buildings were added to the park during the first half of the 20th century. In 2001, UNESCO inscribed Norbulingka on its World Heritage List as part of the "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace".

There is also a zoo at Norbulingka, originally to keep the animals which were given to the Dalai Lama. Heinrich Harrer helped the 14th Dalai Lama build a movie theatre there in the 1950s.



More on Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka (Lhasa, Tibet)

Description of Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka (Lhasa, Tibet) at the World Heritage Listing

Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka (Lhasa, Tibet) Photo Gallery


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