Wednesday, December 24, 2008

travel to Tibet: The Potala Palace

Considered to be a model of Tibetan architecture, the Potala Palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated constructions, devotional atmosphere and splendid artworks. In 1994, the palace joined the list of world cultural heritage sites. Definitely a must see in Tibet!

There is a romantic story about the Potala Palace, which is true! Over 1,300 years ago, Princess Wencheng left the flourishing city, Chang'an (capital of Tang Dynasty and the current Xi'an in Shaanxi province) and took a 3,000-km journey to Tibet for the marriage with Songtsan Gambo, the famous Tubo king. After her arrival, Songtsan Gambo had the Potala Palace built for Princess Wencheng. This structure was later burned to the ground during a war and was rebuilt in 1645 by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Since then, Potala Palace has become the seat of Dalai Lamas and also the political center of Tibet. The thirteenth Dalai Lama extended it to the present size, 117 meters (384 ft) in height and 360 meters (1,180 ft) in width, covering an area of more than 130, 000 sq meters (about 32 acres).

Located on the Red Hill of Lhasa, this ancient architectural complex is mainly comprised by the White Palace (administerial building) and the Red Palace (religious building). The White Palace, comprising halls, temples and courtyards, serves as the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. The Red Palace includes various chambers for worshipping Buddha and chambers housing the eight stupa that contain the remains of fifth through thirteenth Dalai Lama. All the stupas are covered with gold foil. The most magnificent stupa belongs to the fifth Dalai Lama. It is 14.85 meters tall and inlaid with pearl and jade. The palace also collected a large number of sculptures, murals, scripture and other valuable cultural relics.

Warm Suggestion:
According to the local custom, you have to tour clockwise around; don't step on the doorsill; don't smoke in the halls; don't take photos without permission!
It is not easy for visitors to climb to the top building because of its height, so you'd better slow down. Because the halls are always chilly; you'd better take a coat while visiting!
Potala Palace is allowed less than 2300 tourists and pilgrims to enter each day. Therefore we suggest you prepare for a successful trip by purchasing tickets beforehand. Please note that when buying your tickets, you have to show your ID card or passport.

More details about King Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wencheng:

Since Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wencheng married, an era on friendly terms between Tang Dynasty and Tibet initiates.

Based upon "Quan Tang Shu" (A book covers the history of Tang Dynasty), within 200 years after the first year of Zhenguan of Emperor Tang Taizong, the 2nd emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Tibetan culture met a great developing period and Tibetan and Han people intimately associated with each other along the Tang-Tubo Ancient Road. Envoys from the two sides have stepped on this road for 142 times. During that period, the unique Tubo civilization was formed since Tibetan culture absorbed the advanced elements from inland and nearby countries.

Princess Wencheng has brought not only the advanced culture and technology, but also Han people's deep love to Tibetans. Till now, Princess Wencheng is still respected and worshipped by Tibetans while the history of Princess Wencheng's long journey to Tibet becomes a model for friendly association between Tibetans and Han people.

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