It can be said that the Potala Palace(布达拉宫) is the symbol of Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet. Situated on Red Hill(红山) in northwest of the city, the Potala Palace was originally built as the house for the marriage of Emperor Songtsen Gampo(松赞干布) and Princess Wenchang(文成公主) in the Tang Dynasty(618----907). The palace was destroyed twice in its history. In 1645, it was rebuilt and expanded by Dalai Lama V. The project took about half a century to complete.
It is a sacred place for Tibetan Buddhism, the hall and corridors inside are decorated with master paintings, which are concerning Buddhist teachings and stories. There are Red Palace and White Palace as two main parts for Potala Palace. The Red Palace(红宫) displays the artistic statues of Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wenchang, as well as 1000 Buddhist images. The White Palace(白宫)is the one where religious and political activities were usually held and also residential palace for Dalai Lama. In 1994, the Potala Palace has been listed by UNESCO as the World Cultural Heritage. Nowadays, the palace attracts Buddhist worshippers at home and abroad to visit, especially during religious festivals.
►The Red Place and the White Palace:
As it is mentioned before, the main architecture of the Potala Palace is composed of the two parts: Places used by the Dalai Lama as his living chambers and for political activities(the Red Palace); and various Buddhist halls for the successive generations of Dalai Lamas to deal with the Buddhist activities(the White Palace).
♦The White Palace is painted with white walls. It has seven stories. The fourth story, which is called the Eastern Hall, covers an area of 717 square meters and is propped up by 38 large pillars. This is the most important Buddhist hall in the Potala Palace, and has witnessed many major religious and political activities, including the enthronement ceremony for the reincarnated soul boy of the Dalai Lama and the ceremony held when the Dalai Lama begins his reign at the age of 18. The fifth and sixth stories were used as the offices and living chambers of the Prince Regent.
The seventh story was the Winter Palace of the Dalai Lama. It is called the Sunlight Hall simply because the hall enjoys boundless sunlight through its spacious windows. The hall is furnished with gold basins, jade bowls, Buddhist paintings and many other treasures, accentuating the high position of the occupant. Outside the Sunlight Hall(日光殿) is a spacious balcony offering a bird's-eye view of the whole of Lhasa. In the distance are undulating mountain ranges, the beautiful Lhasa River, tracts of fields, tree-shaded villages and the glistening Jokhang Monastery
•The Red Palace occupies an area of 10,000 square meters, where the statues of Songtsan Gambor, Princess Wencheng and some thousands of Buddhist figures are placed for worshipping. When the Red Palace was built in 1690, the Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi sent some 100 artisans of the Han, Manchu and Mongolian nationalities to take part in the construction. The majority of the Red Palace is taken up with various Buddhist halls and eight holy stupas containing the remains of the Dalai Lamas.
►The great value of Potala Palace
The Potala Palace is a treasure house of Tibetan art, the opulence of which reflects the enormous differences that existed between the nobles and the serfs and slaves, who made up 95 percent of the Tibetan population, in the old days. While the Red Palace is composed of the religious center and the Holy Stupa Memorial Hall, the White Palace features the living chambers and political center of the Dalai Lama. Both palaces indicate the social character of temporal and religious activities in old Tibet.
In sum, When you look at the Potala Palace, you see not only one of the most stirring structures on the planet -- "the most extraordinary building in the world," according to the great British traveler Peter Fleming -- but also a culture that is still strongly influential today.