The Potala (pronounced p'oh t'ah l'ah) Palace has stood in Lhasa, Tibet for centuries. Nearly 400 feet tall, the sprawling marble building covers approximately 32 acres. The enormous building has traditionally been the home of the Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama is the name used for the most influential religious and political leader of Tibet. external image 412263013002_potala-palace.jpgThe Potala Palace consists of the Red Palace and the White Palace, and was expanded to its present size by the 13th Dalai Lama.


The original Potala Palace was built in the seventh century by King Songtsen Gampo who used it both as a fortress and to greet his bride. The current structure was built over the original building. The 5th Dalai Lama realized that it would be an ideal spot for the seat of government in Tibet and he began construction in 1645. His advisers covered up his death for 12 years so that they could finish the building. Until 1959, it was the home of the Dalai Lama and also the center of government and religion in Tibet. When the People's Republic of China invaded the country, the Dalai Lama and his advisers were forced to flee into exile.


The exterior of an administrative building in the White Palace
The exterior of an administrative building in the White Palace

The White Palace was used for secular purposes and had 999 rooms for the Dalai Lama and his retinue to live in. The building was built with 999 rooms so that it could be close to heaven. They felt that only heaven shouid have 1000 rooms. On the other hand, the Red Palace was used purely for Buddhist prayer and religious studies. It contains the gold stupas, the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas, as well as chapels, libraries, shrines, and the monks' meeting hall. The buildings are full of Buddhist icons. Therefore, Buddhists often visit The Red Palace, it is a great honor for them to go there. Some artifacts in the Potala Palace are extremely culturally significant, and the palace was made the United Nations World Cultural Heritage Site. Although the Dalai Lama no longer resides in the palace, some areas are still reserved exclusively for his use.

One of the Buddhist statues, made from gold.
One of the Buddhist statues, made from gold.
Visiting The Potala Palace

Admission is 100 yuan per person ($14 U.S. dollars and .64 cents). Pictures in certain rooms cost extra and so does admission onto the roof. The Palace is open from 9am to 12pm and 3pm to 5pm. Remember that the palace is a religious place to it's people, so be respectful. The palace showcases numerous iron, bronze, gold and silver artifacts, arms and armatures from the Tubo Kingdom. Other items worth noticing are leather, textile, paper, porcelain and carved stone goods as well as gems and the original golden manuscripts issued by emperors to the Dalai Lama. Other attractions are the Buddhist statues made out of various materials with marvelous quality.
Some statues are quite huge, several meters in height, where as some are of few inches. There are at least over 200 thousand statues in all. The scenery and architecture alone make it worth the trip.
The Dalai Lama ----

The Dalai Lama is reincarnated into another body when he dies. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th, and was recognized as the Dalai Lama at the age of 2 years old. The Dalai Lama resides now in India since he is unable to return to Tibet.

====Map ----

external image 76871469_KVzbf-S-1.gif
This is a map of the area around The Potala Palace. An interesting fact, to get to Tibet, because of the high elevation one must ride in a train with pressurized train carts.

More information on the Potala Palace can be found here, here, and here.
For more information on the Dalai Lama, click here
To learn more about Buddhism, click here