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Top Choice 05/03/2015 World Heritage China Part 33- The Potala Palace


05-03-2015 22:24 BJT

Chinese Name: La Sa Bu Da La Gong He Da Zhao Si

English Name: The Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple Monastery, Lhasa

Approval Date: December, 1994

Heritage category: Cultural heritage

Selection Criteria: Based on the standards C(I)(IV)(VI) for selecting cultural heritage, the Potala Palace was listed in the World Heritage List. Shortly after, the Jokhang Temple Monastery, Lhasa was also listed and in December 2001, the Norbulingka Summer Palace of Lhasa was also listed.

The Potala Palace

The Potala Palace

Assessment of the World Heritage Committee:

The Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple Monastery are located in the 3,700-meter-high red peak in the center of the Lhasa River Valley. They are both integrated buildings for administrative, religious and political affairs. The Potala Palace consists of the Red Palace, White Palace and peripheral buildings. Since the seventh century, it has been the Dalai Lama’s winter palace, and it represents the center of Tibetan Buddhism and every regime. The beautiful and delicate architecture, the florid decoration, and the beautiful natural landscapes around it make the historic and cultural Potala Palace even more charming. The Jokhang Temple Monastery is a group of very distinctive Buddhist structures. The Norbulingka Summer Palace, which began construction in 18th century, was the Dalai Lama’s summer palace and an outstanding work of Tibetan architecture.

The three places all have very beautiful landscapes and unique architecture, and also are all important historic and religious places. Visitors will be shocked by their beauty.


The Potala Palace is located on the red peak in the center of Lhasa City, Tibet Autonomous Region in southwestern China. The original meaning of “Potala” was “the island where the Goddess of Mercy lived.” The palace started construction in the seventh century. After Sontzen Gampo united Tibet, he built this palace in order to promote Tibet’s political, economic and cultural development, strengthen the friendly ties between Tibet and the Tang Dynasty, and to welcome Princess Wencheng, whom he married. According to the records of the “History of the Early Tang Dynasty—Tibet,” during the Zhenguan 15th Year (641), the Taizong Emperor offered his daughter, the Princess Wencheng, to marry Sontzen Gampo. After Sontzen Gampo returned to Tibet with the princess, he said to his relatives that his father and grandfather had never married a princess from the Tang Dynasty, and since he felt so luck to marry a Tang princess, he should build a palace for her to mark the occasion. Then, he built this splendid palace.

The main tower of the palace had nine floors and 999 rooms, and if the Buddhist Hall on the top floor was counted, the number would be 1,000. It is a pity that that palace built in the Tang Dynasty was destroyed by war, and that only the Dharma Cave still remains. In the middle of the 17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama established the DgavIdan Pho Drang Regime and in order to spread his political influence and strengthen his political-religious serfdom, he decided to re-build the palace in the mountain. The construction started in 1645 and the White Palace was built first, and then the Red Palace. The construction took 50 years and was completed in 1693. The following Dalai Lamas continued to expand it, especially the 13th Dalai Lama who greatly expanded the palace to its current scale.

The Potala Palace is large and splendid. Built in the mountains, it covers an area of over 360,000 square meters. The main building has 13 floors and is 117 meters high. It is a well-known Tibetan-style palace and also an outstanding representative of China’s ancient architecture. It is usually called “the Pearl on the Roof of the World.”

The Potala Palace mainly consists of the White Palace, Red Palace and various peripheral buildings. The construction of the White Palace architectural complex was completed in 1648. The White Palace, which faces south, has seven floors and was the place for previous Dalai Lamas to deal with political and religious affairs. The Red Palace is in the central part of the Potala Palace, and the construction of the Red Palace architectural complex was completed in 1964. It has six floors and was a place for preserving the “soul pagodas” of the previous Dalai Lamas and holding various religious activities. In addition, the Potala Palace also has many peripheral buildings including the Official Monk School, monk dorms, the eastern and western courtyards up in the mountains, the Old Snow Town, the local government named Majikang, the Sutra Publishing House, the horse stables, the backyard of the Potala Palace, and the Dragon Pool Park down in the mountain.

From the mid-17th century until 1959, the Potala Palace had been an important location for where the Dalai Lamas had lived and were engaged in political and religious activities, and it was also the ruling center of the unification of the state and religion of Tibet. The imposing and grand Potala Palace construction complex contains remarkable cultural, artistic and religious achievements of the Tibetan, Han and Mongolian nationalities. Today, with its splendid and majestic appearance and the status of being the holy land of Tibetan Buddhism, the Potala Palace is one of the world-recognized symbols of the Tibetan nationality.

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