Originally built in 640AD during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo, the Potala, the Sacred Place of Buddhism, rises in red, white, and gold splendor high above the city of Lhasa, dominating the landscape and watching over every aspect of local life.
Today the Potala Palace is a state museum, a popular tourist attraction, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also named as one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" by the television show Good Morning America and the newspaper USA Today.
The palace is fronted by a great plaza at the south base of the rock, enclosed by walls and gates. A series of fairly easy staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leads to the summit of the rock.
The Potala raises 13 storeys into the air and stretches nearly 350m across the hillside from east to west. The entire building is made of stone and wood, with walls averaging 3 meters thick. It has over 1,000 rooms, housing 10,000 alters and 200,000 Buddhist statues.
The Potala Palace is made of two main parts, easily distinguished by their color: the Red Palace and White Palace.
The heart of the complex is the Red Palace (Potrang Marpo), painted a deep red and used primarily for religious purposes. Richly decorated with paintings, jeweled works, carvings and other ornaments, it contains several shrines and the tombs of eight past Dalai Lamas.
The Red Palace also houses the monks' assembly hall, numerous chapels and shrines (dedicated to the full extent of Tibet's pantheon of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, saints and demons) and libraries of important Tibetan Buddhist scriptures (the Kangyur in 108 volumes and the Tengyur in 225, all hand-painted from carved wooden blocks).
The secular White Palace (Potrang Karpo), former home of the Dalai Lama and his monks, is surrounding the Red Palace. In addition to monastic living quarters, the White Palace contained offices, the seminary for training Tibetan government officials and the printing house.
The most important shrine in the Potala is the Saint's Chapel in the White Palace, which contains a revered statue of Chenrezi, bodhisattva of compassion. Below the Saint's Chapel is the Dharma Cave, where King Songtsen Gampo studied the Buddhist scriptures after his conversion in the 7th century. These rooms are the oldest part of the Potala Palace.
Location: On the Red Hill in Lhasa
Transportation: Take bus no. 1, 7, 11, 13, 20, 21, 22 or 26, get off at Minhangju Station and then walk to the ticket office.
Ticket: From May 1 to October 31: CNY 200;
From November 1 to April 30: CNY 100
Opening hours: 08:40 to 17:00 (visitors are not allowed to enter at 16:00)
Tickets are sold from 08:40 to 16:00
During the high season (May 1 to October 31), all visitors are required to apply for free reservation tickets with their valid identity documents, such as ID cards and passports one day in advance before they visit the palace. Each valid ID document can be used only once within a week. However, one visitor can have as many as four reservation tickets (one for himself and the other three for his companions) at a time. The reservation ticket window opens at 09:00 and closes after all tickets are sold out.
1. The travel route here is set strictly. Visitors all have to enter from the east main entrance.
2. The visit time is limited in 1 hour.
3. Note that expect the toilet at the right side of the White Palace Square, there is no rest room during the route of the rest time. The water closet at the back gate of the White Palace is said to be distinctive and worth a try.
4. Watch your steps due to the high altitude. Bring along an overcoat as it is a bit cold and damp in the hall.