The Potala Palace stands at top of Marpo Ri (The Red Mountain), 130 meters above the Lhasa Valley. It is a 13-storey palace building, with a height of 110 meters. It is more than 3750 meters above sea level and a large-scale castle-style building. The whole building covers more than 100,000 square meters and it could be overlooked from dozens of miles away. Potala Palace plays the function of residence of religious leader in Tibet’s history as well as the Operations Center for Tibet which combines politics and religion together. As an important symbol of Lhasa, the ancient Potala Palace is not only known for magnificent architecture, but also for a number of valuable cultural relics. It is the essence of the ancient Tibetan architectural and also is the art treasures in Tibet which has been included in the World Heritage List.
Potala Palace was built in 7 century by Sontzen Gampo. In 17 century, the fifth religious leader of Tibet ordered its rebuilding. Form then now, Potala Palace has formally been the residence of the religious leader , meanwhile, the operation center combining the politics and religion together. All important political and religious affairs were hold there. The main buildings of this palace are Red Palace and White House.
The main buildings - White House and Red Palace
White House, which has 7 storeys, is the residence of the religious leaders. Also, it is the Executive Office of the original Tibet government. In the center of the 4th storey, the biggest hall which covers 717 square meters in White House locates here. Religious leader held their important affairs there such as enthronement and taking over the government in this hall. The 5th and 6th storeys are used for working and living individually. The 7th storey is the living room for religious leaders in winter because that the warm sunshine could enter into the whole room from morning to afternoon though in cold winter.
Red Palace includes many temples and Lingta Palaces. There are 8 Lingtas in total for worshipping generations of religious leaders. Among all of them, the Lingta for 5th religious leader is the biggest one. In the west, Ji Yuan Man palace locates there. It is the ancestral hall of 5th religious leader and it is also the biggest Palace in Potala Palace which covers 725 square meters. In this palace, walls are painted colorful. Above the throne, a piece of calligraphy written by Qianlong Emperor in Qin dynasty is hanging. Besides, there are some other buildings just like Dharma King Hole, of which; most of these buildings are kept from Tubo period. They are the earliest buildings of Potala Palace. In Dharma King Hole, early Tibetan worshiped to sculptures of Sontzen Gampo, Wen Cheng princess, Bhrikuti there. Thousands of years past, now these sculptures become precious very much. Shusheng Sanjie Dian, which is the highest building of Red Palace, now worship the portrait of Qianlong Emperor and a 11-face Guanyin portrait made by 13th religious leader with countless Siler. And the Lingta of the 13th religious leader in Red Palace is the newest building in Potala Palace which was finished in 1933 with 3 years. Besides, there are some other famous palaces and temples.
There are some other subsidiary buildings, including the monk school, monk living building, east courtyard, west courtyard, printing house, ancient prison, mews and the Dragon King Lake in the back park of Potala Palace.
In last 300 years, Potala Palace collects and preserves abundant historic relics including more than 2500 pieces of frescos, thousands of pagodas, 10 thousands of sculptures and scroll paintings, endless golden books, golden and jade seals, gold and silver wares, china wares, enamels, jade wares and some other precious art wares. With rich subjects, these precious cultural relics look like the pearl shining in the top of the world.
After liberation in 1959, new Chinese government played much attention to the protection and repairing of Potala Palace. Except for the normal repairing cost, in 1988, the State Council decided to spend a vast sum of money to rebuild Potala Palace. In the next year, this huge project started. With the friendly cooperation and great supports from Tibetan and Han technicist together, this project finished after 5 years. Potala Palace, the treasure of Chinese nation, with its bran-new glamour, attracts millions of people all over the world every year.
Potala Palace is known as the bright pearl in "the Roof of the world". Its palace layout, construction, metallurgy, painting and carving are all famous which shows the intelligent talent of Tibetan, Han nationality, Mongolian and Manchu and represents the great achievements of Tibetan architectural art.
Potala Palace is built beside the mountain, it combines Red Palace and White House and some other buildings together harmoniously. Though most of the buildings were built in different years, designers ingeniously made full use of the topography and the shape of mountain so that to make the Palace so majestic and spectacular but also harmonious. It is the masterpiece in architecture.
Typical example for combination of palaces and temples:
Potala Palace is the excellent combination of palaces and temples. It is rarely seen not only in China but also in all over the world.
Keep the original state in the history
Thousands of years past, though Potala Palace was reconstructed and extended for so many times, its existing designing, materials, craft and layout still could keep their original state as that in 7 century.
Decorative arts in architecture
Potala Palace not only got a high creative achievement as a whole construction, in some of its detail parts, such as designing, decorative arts, sculpture, color drawing and so on, its achievement also strike the attention of the world.
Important sense in religion and history
In history, Potala Palace was once the executive office of the Tibet government which combined religion and politics together. Its history is closely relevant with some important historical persons of Tibet such as Sontzen Gampo, Wen Cheng princess, Bhrikuti and generations religious leaders and so on. From these aspects, Potala takes great historical and history significance.
The symbolization for national unity
In Sha Song Lang Jie Palace, it enshrines and worships the memorial tablet which was written in Chinese, Tibetan language, Manchu language and Mongolian for Kangxi Emperor. Also painted scroll of Qianlong Emperor is also hanging there. It shows that in history Tibet is a subordinate nation of Chinese ethnic and it is also the strong evidence of national and family unity.
Tickets selling system of Potala Palace combines advance sale and limited sale. Every day, only 2300 people are allowed to visit Potala Palace (among these 2300, only 700 individual travelers are allowed). The ticket selling system is very strict. Customers must get the ticket buying certificates at least one day in advance. And one person is only allowed to get at most 4 ticket buying certificates with 4 different identity cards which show customers’ visiting time. With ticket buying certificates, customers could buy tickets in the next day in front gate.
Individual travelers should enter the Palace from its front gate.Tour group must enter the Palace from the south east door of the Palace’s wall. And here, visitors must take safety inspection, and are checked identity card. The purpose of the safety inspection is for making sure that no explosive and flammable materials, guns and knife, and sharp materials (which could possibly be used to pry the diamonds in Palace) are taken into the Palace.