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


05-03-2015 22:24 BJT


The Jokhang Temple Monastery is located to the southeast of the urban area in Lhasa City and was built during the Zhenguan 21st Year of the Tang Dynasty in 601. It has been called the “Resha” and “Luoxie,” before it was called the Jokhang Temple Monastery in the ninth century, which means “the hall depositing scriptures.” In the Qing Dynasty between 1644 and 1911, it was called the Jokhang Temple. It is the oldest wooden structure in Tibet and combines Tang Dynasty-style with Tibetan-style architectures. Before the Jokhang Temple Monastery was built, Princess Chizun, Sontzen Gampo’s concubine from Nepal, learned that Princess Wencheng, another concubine of Sontzen Gampo from the Tang Dynasty, was skilled in surveying and mapping. Therefore Princess Chizun requested Lu Dongzan to invite Princess Wencheng to survey the location of building the temple. According to survey, they thought that the Tibetan terrain looked like a supine witch.

The Jokhang Temple Monastery

The Jokhang Temple Monastery

The lake in Lhasa (foundation base of the Jokhang Temple Monastery) is made of the witch's heart and blood while the Red Mountain and Yaowang Mountain look like the skeleton around the witch's heart. If a temple was built on the lake to enshrine the Sakyamuni Statue and if the imperial palace was built on the Red Mountain, the witch could be suppressed. Therefore, Sontzen Gampo gave orders to fill the lake and build the temple. During the construction, a large number of soil were carried with white goats, and after the temple was completed, the temple was given the name "Resha" to commemorate the achievements of these white goats. Later, the temple was called "Zulakang" and "Juekang" and then finally the Jokhang Temple Monastery in the Qing Dynasty. During more than 40 years, from the fifth Dalai Lama to Sangy Gyatso, the temple went through large-scale repairs and extensions. After continual reparations and expansions, the Jokhang Temple Monastery formed its current scale.

The main buildings of the Jokhang Temple Monastery are the scripture halls, which has four floors, with the building components being Han nationality-style and columns and eaves being typical Tibetan style. The Sakyamuni Statue brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty (618—904) was enshrined on the first floor and the statues of Sontzen Gampo, Princess Wencheng and Princess Chizun were enshrined on the second floor. The third floor has an open courtyard and provides the first floor with a roof and skylight. The fourth floor has four golden roofs in the center and the interior and outer walls of the hall and surrounding corridors were painted with murals, covering an area of over 2,600 square meters. The themes include the Buddha, historical figures, and stories. In addition, the temple also kept a large number of precious cultural relics and the "Tang-Tubo Alliance Monument," which stands in front of the temple, witnessing the friendly exchanges between the Han and Tibetan people.

The Norbulingka, which means "treasure garden" in the Tibetan language, stands by the Lhasa River, two kilometers west of the Potala Palace. In the mid-18th century, the seventh Dalai Lama ordered to establish an official palace, the Kelsang Potrang, which was later called the Norbulingka, becoming the place where the Dalai Lamas handled political and religious affairs. The Dalai Lamas after the seventh Dalai Lama had all repaired and expanded the Norbulingka, with the eighth and 13th Lamas being the most famous. After being expanded by the Eighth Dalai Lama, the Norbulingka looked like a garden. The 13th Dalai Lama mainly repaired the Golden Linka and constructed some buildings such as the Golden Potrang in the west of the garden. In 1954, the Central People's Government built the Takten Migyur Potrang (known as the New Palace) for the 14th Dalai Lama, forming today’s Norbulingka.

The Norbulingka covers an area of about 3.6 million square meters and has more than 100 species of plants, including common flowers and trees in Lhasa, exotic flowers and herbs transplanted from the southern and northern foot of the Himalayas, as well as rare flowers from Chinese inland and abroad. Therefore, it can be called the "Botanical Garden on the Plateau."

The Norbulingka is composed of several palace architectures including the Kelsang Potrang, the Golden Potrang and the Takten Migyur Potrang, with each being divided into three major sections—the palace area, the former area of the palace, and the garden area. The building complex with the Kelsang Potrang as its main building is located in the southeast section of the south yard inside the second walls. The building complex with the Tsokyil Potrang as its main building lies about 120 meters northwest of the Kelsang Potrang and is the most beautiful scenic spot in Norbulingka. The building complex with the Golden Potrang as its main building is located in west of Norbulingka. All the buildings were made of wooden and stone materials, with an obvious Tibetan architectural style. The walls of the main hall were all painted with beautiful murals. In addition, a large number of artifacts and books are preserved in Norbulingka.

Cultural heritage value:

The Potala Palace is hailed as the “the Pearl on the Roof of the World” and its palace layout, civil engineering, metal melting, paintings, and sculptures are famous across the world, representing the excellent technique of Tibetan, Han, Mongolian and Man nationalities, and the great achievements of Tibetan architecture.

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