The Potala Palace was the political center of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism since it was constructed under the direction of the 5th Dalai Lama in 1645. It is built on a hill, called “Red Hill” in the center of the Lhasa valley midway between the Sera and Drepung Monasteries, and near the old city and Jokhang Temple, the spiritual center of Lhasa.
It is an immense building with walls 5 meters thick at the base and 3 meters thick at the top. It is 16 stories high and has over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and about 200,000 statues. This was the home of the current Dalai Lama until he fled to India during an uprising in 1959. The palace is now a museum with only about 20 monks present to keep it up. In the past as many as 300-400 monks lived in the palace.
The palace is divided into two parts, the White Palace and the Red Palace. The White palace was devoted to secular things and was where the Dalai Lama had his quarters as well as offices, a seminary, and a printing house.
The Red Palace was devoted to all things spiritual and contains many different halls, chapels, libraries, and other places of worship. You can see the Red Palace in the center of the building above. I’m sure at one point in time the palace was on the outskirts of town, but now it sits right in the center of the city. There is a large boulevard that runs right in front of it and there is a large plaza-type park across the street. Most of the buildings all around in that area are Chinese and are not any different than any other Chinese city. Lhasa’s old town, the really interesting Tibetan part of the city, is about a 20-30 minute walk from the Potala Palace.
The number of visitors is restricted each day to prevent damage to the structure. I spent some time in Lhasa in May of 2012 and visited the Polala Palace. Visitors are only allowed in certain parts of the building. In fact, most of the halls are blocked to the public, including the former residence of the current Dalai Lama. The palace is a fascinating labyrinth of winding hallways, rooms, prayer halls, and so on. Tibetan pilgrims make up most of the visitors to the palace. They bring butter to add to the butter lamps as an offering; they also leave cash donations as well. Unfortunately, but understandably, photography was not allowed inside most areas of the palace. Of course, they wanted to sell you a very expensive book with photos of the interior.
One evening I strolled all the way around the hill where the palace stands. There are prayer wheels around most of the way and pilgrims regularly circumambulate the palace. At night the Palace is illuminated with bright lights. Behind the palace is a large park with a stage for performances. The evening I was there a Tibetan opera was being staged.
The whole time I was in the palace I had a strong desire to wander off and really explore the place. There were so many closed doors, blocked hallways, and entire buildings that we were not allowed to enter. I have read that it really is a spectacular building full of relics, art, scriptures, and so on. Who knows what mysteries lie behind those closed doors.
This place is absolutely incredible. It would be wonderful if we got to know what the monks are keeping secret behind the closed doors and blocked hallways. Thank you for taking these pictures. It gives me a glimpse of the hidden treasures we have around the world.
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Really nice posts with so many detailed information and photos! I love the mural paintings inside the palace, and wonder how it can be stay for so many years.
Divided into 2 parts: White Castle and Red Castle. Used to be home of Dalai Lama before he fled.
Thanks for sharing! This place looks absolutely beautiful, and I am stunned once again by how amazing ancient architecture can be. We think now about modern advancements and what can be done, but sometimes I think the most beautiful buildings can be found in history.
Great photos and information on Potala Palace. I’d love to get the chance to visit Lhasa and the palace someday.
It is very interesting to learn how different country has its own developed Buddhism. Each country’s Buddhism soul is very beautiful!
The pictures you took of this palace are great! I found the division of the palace into the white and red palace very interesting, showing a nice division between spiritual and physical beings. It baffles me to think what is behind all the closed doors you also wanted to open! This palace is definitely a treasure and piece of art in Tibet.
Your description of the palace really gave me an idea of what it is like and I’m absolutely stunned by how many statues there are! That must’ve been incredible to see it all in person. I was surprised when you said only 20-30 monks live there now, considering 200-300 used to live to keep it up. Must be a lot of work.
The buildings and statues in Tibet look very nice. I wanna go there and feel the atmosphere.
I love the pictures of the Potala Palace! The intricacy of the palace was amazing. I would love to learn what the butter lamps are and the Tibetan religious beliefs surrounding them. But your post has definitely encouraged me visit Lhasa some day and experience the culture myself!
These structures look amazing! The pictures are breathtaking!
I truly love the extravagant buildings that are found in China and the surrounding areas including Tibet. It seems that buildings such as the Potala Palace are always found in quaint towns and villages. This makes the structures even more fantastic, especially when perched atop a hill such as this one.
The palace that Dalia Lamia use to live in is out of this world! I cannot believe that it was built that long ago, and is still standing! The palace is also so beautiful, and it is so neat that it is separated into a red and a white part! The building must be beautiful, considering it has over ten thousand shrines. It is so fascinating that over four hundred monks use to live there, and now only like forty or fifty do! I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for those forty-fifty monks to keep that castle up! The landscape is amazing! I liked the art around the palace, espically the prayer wheels.
Wow, the palace and the surrounding landscape are incredibly beautiful. That looks like a fantastic place to visit. The architectural designs, both in the facade and interior (the colors are amazing!) are really stunning. I hope I could visit one day!
This palace appears to be very mysterious. It sparks curiosity and has been well preserved over the years. I would love to visit Tibet to see the monasteries and temples that surround the city. The pictures provided spark a newfound desire to visit this specific palace. It was amazing to see that the red palace was different from the white palace in regards to spirituality and secular practice. I also was unaware that this was the former home of the Dalai Lama so that was an interesting fact to learn.
It’s great to see pictures of Tibet. It is a beautiful region with a lot of natural and architectural beauty all around. I’ve been wanting to visit Tibet for a long time, and this post just makes me want to go even more. If I ever do get the chance to visit, I will definitely try to see this palace in person. It’s quite beautiful!