The Potala Palace, also known as the “Winter Palace” of Dalai Lama, is full of historical and archeological significance. The art works that embellish this old palace unfold the history of ancient China before you. They are evocative of the ancient Buddhist traditions and Tibetan culture.
The Potala Palace was originally built in the 640′s, during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo. It was built on “Moburi (Red) Mountain”, to the west of old Lhasa. This huge palace made of stone and wood has 13-stories and over 1,000 rooms. It stands on the towering height of 117 meters and covers an area of 130,000 square meters in total. Each wall has an amazing thickness of 3 meters in average.
In addition to be a treasure trove of traditional Buddhist Scriptures and historically significant murals and sculptures and Tibetan practices, the Potala Palace contains various chapels and mausoleums for previous Dalai Lamas. The Palace also housed the offices of the ancient Tibetan government and their assembly halls.
The original structure of Potala Palace was destroyed in the 9th century that coincided with the end of Tubo Dynasty era. A rebuilding was started during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama and completed in the late 17th century. It came to be known as the “Winter Palace” in the 1750′s, when the 7th Dalai Lama found his summer sanctuary in Norbulingka Park.
A grand hall called “Sasong Langjie” was built on the topmost story of the Potala Palace in 1679. The hall was adorned with a portrait of the Qing Emperor “Qianlong” bearing the words “A Long, Long Life to the Present Emperor” written in Han, Manchu, Mongol and Tibetan. It was a ritual for the Dalai Lamas to come and pay homage to this portrait on each Tibetan New Year’s Day.
In 1994, this Potala Palace of Dalai Lama was declared the United Nation’s World Cultural Heritage Site.