Potala named after a holy hill in South India is a Sanskrit word meaning "Abode of the Avalokitesvara (Buddha of Mercy)." Legend has it that in the 7th century, to greet his bride Princess Wen Cheng of the Tang Dynasty (618B.C. - 907B.C.) of China, the then Tibet King Songtsen Gampo built a 9-storey palace with a thousand rooms up on the Red Hill and named it Potala. Later, with the collapse of the Songtsen Gampo Dynasty, the ancient palace was almost destroyed in wars.
What we see at present is the architecture of the Qing Dynasty (1644B.C. - 1911B.C.) and the continuous expanding work outcome since the 17th century.
The Potala Palace, winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century, symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet.
The complex, comprising the White and Red Palaces with their ancillary buildings, is built on Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of 3,700m. Also founded in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist religious complex.
Corridor inside the Potala Palace
Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.
Mural inside the Potala Palace.
Enclosed within massive walls, gates and turrets built of rammed earth and stone the White and Red Palaces and ancillary buildings of the Potala Palace rise from Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley at an altitude of 3,700 metres. As the winter palace of the Dalai Lama from the 7th century CE the complex symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet.
Paintings and detail inside the Potala Palace.
Potala Palace is composed of 2 parts, the Red Palace as the center and the White Palace as two wings.
The Red Palace or Potrang Marpo is the highest part in the center that is completely devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer. It was painted to red to represent stateliness and power. It consists of a complicated layout of different halls, chapels and libraries on many levels with an array of smaller galleries and winding passages: The Great West Hall, Dharma Cave, The Saint's Chapel, The Tomb of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and etc.
The 725 sq meters (about 7,804 sq ft) Great West Hall is the largest hall of Potala Palace, with beautiful murals painted on its inner walls. Around the Great West Hall are three chapels, the east chapel, the north chapel as well as the south chapel. The Dharma Cave and the Saint's Chapel are the only two remained constructions of the 7th century with the statues of Songtsen Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng, and Princess Bhrikuti inside.
The White Palace or Potrang Karpo once served as the office building of Tibet local government makes up the living quarters of Dalai Lama. Its wall was painted to white to convey peace and quiet. The Great East Hall on the fourth floor, occupying a space of 717 sq meters (about 7,718 sq ft), was the site for momentous religious and political events.
The fifth and sixth floors are used as the living quarters and offices of regents while the seventh floor, the top one, is the living quarters of Dalai Lama consisting of two parts named the East Chamber of Sunshine and the West Chamber of Sunshine due to the plentiful sunshine.
Potala Palace has other annexes including the School of Buddhist Logic, the seminary, the printing House, gardens, courtyards and even the jail. For more than 300 years, It has treasured many culture relics such as murals, stupas, statues, thangkas, and rare sutras.
Tibetan scriptures in stone:
Hundreds of these were piled up on the side of the path leading down to the bottom of the Potala Palace grounds.