Introducing Potala Palace
This architectural wonder Potala Palace is Lhasa’ cardinal landmark. Potala Palace can be seen from all directions for miles around. It was set up in the seventh century AD during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo. Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill, covers an area of 41 hectares. As the winter residence of the successive Dalai Lamas, the Potala Palace formerly served as the center of local Tibetan theocratic rule, hosting the major religious and political ceremonies since the reign of Dalai Lama V (1917-1682), at the same time housing the relics of those spiritual leaders. With its world-wide reputation, the Potala Palace stands on the Red Hill overlooking the Tibetan city of Lhasa as a major national cultural monument under special protection by the government.
Potala Palace Fast Facts
• Chinese Name: Bu Da La Gong 布达拉宫
• Best Time to Visit: March to October
• Recommended Visiting Hours: About 1 to 3 hours
• Things to Do: Photography, Architecture, Tibetan Buddhism
• Opening Hours: 09:30-15:00
• Entrance Fee: CNY 200 from May to Oct; CNY 100 from Nov to Apr
• Address: No.35 Central Beijing Road, Chengguan District, Lhasa, Tibet
What to expect at Potala Palace
At an elevation of more than 3,700m, the Potala Palace occupies an area of more than 360,000m. Its 13-story main portion rises 117m. The whole complex, consisting of halls, stupa-tomb halls (where the relics of the supreme lamas are preserved), shrines, prayer rooms, monks’ dormitories and courtyards, is recognized as the world’s highest and largest castle palace.
Built against the terraced slope of the hill, the structures combine to from a huge sky-scraping mass, reminiscent of the divine realm above the mortal world. The granite walls elaborately decorated with soft white thatch, the golden roofs decorated with big gilded bottles, the splendid curtains and banners, join to form a unique structural wonder bearing the striking colors red, white and yellow characteristic of Tibetan architectural art, making the Potala an eminent example of a constructive technology traditionally Tibetan and Chinese.
White Palace & Red Palace
The main portion of the Potala Palace contains the White Palace and the Red Palace, with more than 1000 rooms. The 7-storey White Palace, Dalai Lamas’ winter residence, also housed the former local Tibetan government. There the most spacious hall, the eastern Audience Hall (Sishe Phuntsok) occupies a central area of 717m on the 4th floor. It was there that the Dalai Lamas were enthroned as supreme Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and the region’s temporal ruler. The 5th and 6th floors bore government offices and rooms for the officials. Two particular apartments on the top floor, reserved for the Living Buddhas, were known as Eastern and Western Sunshine Apartments for their long access to sunlight.
In contrast with the White Palace, the Red Palace consists mainly of the supreme primates’ stupa-tombs and the shrines. Of the 8 stupa-tomb halls, the most magnificent is that for the cult of Dalai Lama V. To the west his memorial hall, the Western Audience Hall, covers 725m to be the largest hall in the Potala Palace. Of the extensive murals there the most notable one shows the patriarch’s audience with Chinese Emperor Shunzhi (reigned 1644-1661) in Beijing. A tablet overhanging the patriarch’s throne bears a Chinese phrase meaning literally “The Source of Lotus Flowers” written by Chinese Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) himself. The phrase is a metaphoric reference to the Buddhist paradise.
The Dharma-raja’s Cave (Chogyal Dupup) and several other apartments dating back from the reign of the Tu-bo Dynasty (629-846)are the earliest Potala structures extant. They house a valuable collection of statues, including the sculptural representation of King Srang-brtsan-sgam-po, his consorts Princess Wencheng and Princess Khri-btsun and his prime minister Blon-stong-btsan-po.
As the most elevated hall in the Red Palace, “The Best of the Three Realms” (Sasum Namgyal) accommodates the image of Chinese Emperor Qianlong and the statue of 11-face avalokitesvare cast in more than 10,000 ounces of silver as commissioned by Dalai Lama XIII. The remains of that spiritual leader are preserved in a stupa in the neighboring hall. Construction of that hall, begun in 1933, was not completed until three years later. Thus it is the newest hall in the whole complex.
Arts & Relics Inside Palace
Through more than 300 years the Potala Palace has accumulated an enormous collection of monuments and relics. There are murals covering totally more than 2,500m, nearly 1,000 stupas, about 10,000 statues and as many thang-ka paintings, the religious library there includes puttra-leaf scriptures and the Bka’-‘gyur (Buddhas’s Teachings) volumes.
There are also a unique collection of golden diplomas and jade seals granted to successive Dalai lamas by Chinese Ming (1356-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) emperors to re-affirm the official ties between the local Tibetan administration and the central Chinese government. And the gold and silver artifacts, porcelain vessels, enamel-work, jade-ware, brocade and other handicraft articles preserved in the Potala Palace are enormous and richly diversified. The beauty and originality of its architecture, its ornate decoration and its harmonious integration in a striking landscape add to its historic and religious interest.
How to get to Potala Palace
• By Bus: take bus No. 8, 13, 17, 26, 35, or L2 and get off at Baita Station; take bus No. 2, 6, 7, 14, 16 or 25 and get off at Lazhong Station.
• Rent a car/bus from GGC to enjoy a hassle free private transfer from hotels in Lhasa to Potala Palace.
Additional travel advice on Potala Palace
Tibet Travel Permit
• Independent travel is prohibited in Tibet. Foreigners need Tibet Travel Permit to enter Tibet.
• The only way to get Tibet Travel Permit is to join an organized group or have a private tour arranged by a travel agency.
• Tibet Travel Permit is issued by the Tourism Bureau of Tibet Autonomous Region, two weeks prior to the entry of Tibet.
• A valid China Visa is required to apply for Tibet Travel Permit, Get your China Visa at least a month before your trip.
• GoGrandChina will apply for your Tibet Travel Permit once you book Tibet tours with us.
• With an average elevation over 4,000 meters, a mild Altitude Sickness on the first day(s) in Tibet is quite common.
• Try to avoid catching a cold before enter into Tibet.
• Make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before flying to Lhasa.
• Avoid strenuous activity during your first day in Tibet.
• Better drink more water.
• When arriving in Lhasa, walk slowly, take deep breaths. Take time to acclimatize.
• Ascend to higher altitudes gradually. DO NOT ASCEND ANY HIGHER if you begin feeling ill.
• Prepare AMS medication, in accordance with a doctor’s advice.
• Since the Potala Palace is a holy Buddhist site, travelers are suggested dress respectfully. Wearing hats and sunglasses are not allowed inside the palace.
• It is not allowed to take photos inside the palace
• To ensure the smooth visiting, and enlarge the capacity of tourists, only an hour’s visiting is allowed during peak season.
• Sunglasses and sun cream are always needed to protect from the sunburn and strong ultraviolet radiation in the daytime.