Saturday, November 28, 2009

Potala Palace

China and Her Ethnic groups
China is a beautiful country with 56 official ethnic groups. When the Europeans first step foot into China they first thought that they had arrived in the kingdom of the Heaven as the scenery in China was simply like a paradise. It was too beautiful to them.

Among the 56 ethnic groups are the Tibetans who lived in Tibet. Tibet is located southwest of China, bordering with India and Nepal. It is sometimes referred to as the Roof of the World. The capital of Tibet is Lhasa and located in Lhasa is a very famous palace known as the Potala Palace.

History of Potala Palace
Potala Palace's history began in the 7th century when the founder of the Tubo dynasty, King Songtsan Gambo, ordered the construction of a 999 room palace for the sake of marrying the Tang dynasty princess, Princess Wencheng.
The Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill of Lhasa. However, there was some destruction caused by lightning and war. It was rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1645. During the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese in 1959, the palace was slightly damaged when Chinese shells were launched into it's window. However there were still some 100,000 volumes of scriptures, historical documents and other works of arts were either removed, damaged or destroyed since. Between 1989 to 1994, RMB55million (US$6.875million) was spent on restoration works.

Architecture and Design
This palace was built at an altitude of 3,700 m (12,100 ft), on the side of Marpo Ri ('Red Mountain') in the center of Lhasa Valley, widely recognized as Tibet's pinnacle architecture and the epicenter of the entire Lhasa's valley. The palace has vast inward-sloping walls broken in the upper parts by straight rows of windows and flat roofs at various levels. It is not unlike a fortress in appearance. It's interior is renowned as intricate murals line the corridors leading through mazes of treasured materials highly focused on Tibetan's history, religion, culture and arts.

The Palace consists of 2 sub palaces which are namely the Red Palace and the White Palace which can be distinguished by the colors of the walls. The Red is mainly for religious purposes, comprising of the Hall of the Buddha, the Memorial hall, libraries and the Scripture Hall. It contains imposing chapels and numerous jeweled tombs of the earlier Dalai Lamas. The Main Central Hall of the red palace consists of the Great West Hall, the Saint's Chapel, North Chapel, South Chapel, East Chapel and the West Chapel. There are also 3 main galleries which are namely the the First, Second Gallery and Third Gallery, which are located around the chapel area. The White Palace is more utilitarian, consisting of offices, a printing house, a seminary, courtyards, shrines and tombs of the eight Dalai Lamas. It also serves as living quarters for the Dalai Lamas.

The Dalai Lama
Before this palace was opened to the public, it was once the home of the King and the Dalai Lamas. Since the first Dalai Lama till now, the current one is the 14th generation. Tombs of the previous Dalai Lamas can be found in the palace. This palace was renovated by the Dalai Lama of the 13th generation. The 14th Dalai Lama was send into exile and had formed the exile Tibet government in India.

This Palace is said to be absolutely earthquake proof and has been included as one of the new wonders of the world in 2006. Buddhism was brought into China and Tibet from India. However it was the Chinese who had spread and flourished Buddhism into different parts of the world. The Tibetan ethnic group is a Buddhist ethnic group. Tibetans are devoted believers and practitioners of Buddhism. For people who would like to understand deeper about Buddhism, Lhasa and the Potala Palace is the ideal place as it is somewhat the heartland of Buddhism in China.

Visiting Potala Palace
Tour only clockwise according to their local customs. Do not Step on door sill, don't smoke in the halls and most of all do not take photos/videos without permission! It will be difficult for visitors to climb to the top of the building due to its height. Hence it will be better to slow down and as the halls are always chilly wear a coat when visiting the palace. Only less than 2300 tourists and pilgrims are allowed to admit into the palace daily.

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