Potala Palace - Symbolic architecture of Tibet
Potala Palace, regarded as landmark and the symbol of Tibet, is a great giant palace consisting of many houses, towers, chapels, etc. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Potala Palace is the highest place in the world. Because of its spectacular architecture style, it is honored as one of the most beautiful architectural building in the world. As the historic ensemble of Lhasa, Potala Palace, together with the exceptional Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka is the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main buildings of Potala Palace are situated on the Red Hill by the side of Lhasa River. It is not only a splendid place, but also a treasure house where you can see precious arts and learn Tibetan culture and history. Because of its brilliant arts and history, travelers see it as the No. 1 must-see attraction in Tibet. By climbing the steps up to the top, you can see the great views of Lhasa city as well as beautiful plateau landscape far away.
Potala Palace Facts
- April to October
- World Heritage Site, Architecture, Religious Site
- 3700 meters
- Moburi Mountain in the northern Lhasa
How to Get to Potala Palace
Located in the northern of Lhasa, adjacent to Jokhang Temple with 1.6 km and 1.5 km away from Barkhor Street, Potala Palace is mostly chosen for the first attraction of your Tibet Travel, and you can easily to get there from the airport or train station in Lhasa.
● 70 km away from Lhasa Gonggar Airport
● 20 km away from Lhasa Railway Station
By connecting many domestic cities, including Chamdo, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xian, Guangzhou and more, taking flight to Lhasa Gonggar Airport is the first choice to arrive in Lhasa. With a distance of 70 km from airport to Potala Palace, you can take the airport shuttle bus within one hour. Besides the airline, you can take the Qinghai-Lhasa Railway to the Lhasa Railway Station and take taxi to the Palace. If you book Tibet tour with us, we can arrange the private transfer service and pick you up at the airport or train station.
Potala Palace History
Potala Palace’s history can be traced back to about 1,300 years ago since which Potala has been through several large reconstructions. It was originally built in the 7th century when the Tubo Kingdom ruled Tibet to house Srongtsen Gampo and his two wives - Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal and Princess Wencheng of Tang Empire.
After the fall of Tubo Kingdom, Potala Palace was almost ruined by constant wars until 17th century when came the most important reconstruction during Potala’s history. His Holiness - the Fifth Dalai Lama decided to rebuild Potala Palace. He received helpful hands from Qing Empire. The constructions took almost many years. At last, the Fifth Dalai Lama moved the government from Drepung Monastery to Potala, which made Potala as the political and Buddhism center of Tibet. Since the Fifth Dalai Lama, several small reconstructions had been conducted by the later Dalai Lamas. The main body of Potala Palace has remained as the same as the past.
Amazing Architecture of Potala Palace
Potala Palace Highlights
As the symbol of Tibet, Potala Palace has many things worth seeing, the architecture of the entire construction, the splendid well-preserved artworks and various kinds of religious treasures and etc. by sightseeing all those highlights, you can trace back to old days and experience the glory of Tibet history.
Potala Palace is one of the most brilliant architectural buildings standing on the precipitous hill. Having a majestic exterior of 13 layers in the total height of 117 meters, the whole palace was built by wood and stones. The walls were piled by granite with a thickness of 2-5 meters. The roof and eaves are made of woods with beautiful carvings about Buddhism. Constructed by the white and red palaces, there are ornate chapels, halls, rooms inside. The palace can be divided to two main parts: the White Palace around and the Red Palace in the center. The White Palace was the living quarters of the Dalai Lama and the office to deal with political and Buddhist affairs. And the Red Palace is the main building for 117 meters, consisting of a complicated layout of different Buddhist halls, chapels and libraries.
Inside the majestic Palace is the treassure house of splendid art works. Besides the artistic concentrate of ancient Tibet architecture, Potala Palace is also an art treasure of Tibet. The most outstanding art is the 698 murals on the walls and along the corridors which describe some important events happened during Tibetan history, like Princess Wencheng to Tibet, and lifetime stories of famous Buddhist masters, such as the 5th Dalai Lama. Apart from murals, you can also find a large quantity of exquisite Tangkas, a typical kind of roll of uranium, painting on silk, cloth or paper and framed by color satin, which are mainly telling about the Tibet history events, religious figures and Buddhist doctrines. Besides, there are many kinds of crafts to present the Tibetan local life.
Potala Palace is one of the holiest buildings of Tibetan Buddhism. It is the palace of leader of Tibetan Buddhism – Dalai Lama. During ancient time, Potala opened a Buddhist school to teach Buddhism. More importantly, Potala Palace houses many stupas of past Dalai Lamas. And in both Red Palace and White Palace, there are lots of precious statues, especially the 2 meters high statue of Tsong Khapa (in East Chapel), a silver statue of Padmasambhava (in South Chapel), and statues of Sakyamuni, Dalai Lamas and Medicine Bduddha (in North Chapel). Integrated into different Buddhist art of Han dynasty, India and Nepal, the sculpture is another precious treasure in the palace, including the clay sculpture, wood carvings, stone inscription and multiple metal statues.
Best Place to Photograph Potala Palace
As we learn, Potala Place is an extremely outstanding attraction with spectacular architectures. It attracts numerous shutter-bugs to admire its charm and take wonderful pictures. There are three recommended to take beautiful pictures of Potala Palace.
Chakpori Hill, also called Yaowang Mountain, is a sacred hill located over the street of Potala Palace. On the cliff of Chakpori Hill, you can find many well-preserved figures of Buddha which may tracing back to 1,000 years ago. It is the best place to take a paramount view of Potala Palace and shot the Potala Palace under sunrise or sunset. It is suggested get up early to get the best location because a large crowd of photographers will come there to shot Potala Palace irradiated by the first rays of the sun.
Zongjiao Lukang Park
Zongjiao Lukang Park, literally meaning the back of palace, is located adjacent to Potala Palace. Local people regard it as the best resort in that there are bridges, lakes, birds, fishes as well as green trees and various flowers. This park is also equipped with some entertaining facilities. Here you can take the best picture of the inverted reflection of Potala Palace from the Lake.
Potala Palace Square
In the square in front of Potala Palace, you can take a full view of Potala Palace. In the morning, you could also take the picture of the local Tibetans who are taking kora around Potala Palace. If you visit at night, you can stand at the square palace to take a sparking night scene of Potala Palace.
Useful Travel Tips of Potala Palace
Best Time to Visit Palace
Usually, it is available to visit Potala Palace in all seasons because Lhasa is usually mild all the year around without cold winter or hot summer. But if you want to extend your Lhasa tour to other areas, like Namtso or Everestk May ~ October is the best time. Take an overcoat even in summer days while visit Potala Palace, as it is a bit cold and damp in the Palace.
Limited Tickets & Restricted Visiting Time
With the tickets of 200RMB (May–October) or 100 RMB(November–April), Potala Palace is allowed less than 2,300 tourists and pilgrims to enter during 9:00-16:00 of each day, excepting Holidays & big event. The ticket purchase should be booked one day beforehand in order to secure entry. Also thManners & Taboosere is only one hour for visiting the inner of Potala Palace, you’d better arrange the time by studying ahead to know what are you going to see most. There are about 30 sites along the relatively fixed visit route and some of them can’t miss out, including Stupa of fifth Dalai Lama, Dharma Cave and Saint Kwun Yum Hall.
Manners & Taboos
Since Potala Palace is an important Buddhist site, tourists need to dress and act respectively. Please do not point your fingers at the statues and remember to take off your sunglasses or hat while visiting the halls. Water and lighters are forbidden to be taken to the palace, but there is water for sale in the White Palace Square. It is also not allowed to take photos after entering the palace.
Location of Toilet
The toilet at the right side of the White Palace Square is the only rest room during the route of the rest tour time. The bathroom at the West Gate of the Potala Palace is said to be distinctive and worth a try.
Be Ready for Lots of Steps
Sitting at 3700 meters above the sea level, you need to climb up from the South Gate to the top of the Potala Palace and covers over 1,000 steps. The climbing time does not count towards your “1 hour” limit. Along the climb way, make sure to stop and rest a while.
Lhasa Top Attractions
Recommended Tour Packages
Escorted by a skilled private drivers and accompanied by a professional local tour guide to organize all the activities, all you have to do is to enjoy your fantastic Tibet journey. Time can never be wasted waiting for a group, hopping on and off buses or negotiating unfamiliar destinations.
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Questions & Discussions
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Thanks for your question. The Potala Palace was originally built in the 7th century by Srongtsen Gampo, the king of Tubo, as palace for him and his two wives - Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal and Princess Wencheng of Tang Empire. After the fall of Tubo Kingdom, Potala Palace was almost ruined by constant wars until 17th century when came the most important reconstruction during Potala’s history. His Holiness - the Fifth Dalai Lama decided to rebuild Potala Palace. The constructions took almost many years. At last, the Fifth Dalai Lama moved the government from Drepung Monastery to Potala, which made Potala as the political and Buddhism center of Tibet. Since the Fifth Dalai Lama, several small reconstructions had been conducted by the later Dalai Lamas. The main body of Potala Palace has remained as the same as the past.
Thanks for your question. As you know, the Potala Palace is world famous for its outstanding layout, construction, craftwork, painting and sculpture. I think there are many different elements attracting different people to Potala Palace. For its feature of architecture, there is a short comment as your reference.
Firstly, Potala Palace is located on the mountain. It makes full use of the hilly topography to create both the majesty and the harmonious integrity –an unparalleled altitude in terms of architectural aesthetics achievement.
Then, Potala Palace is an infrequent building integrate perfectly the style of Tibetan Buddhist monastery and palace. It remains its original appearance despite that some buildings experienced several reconstruction.
At last, the decorative art of the Potala Palace is embodied in the design of each part, including granite walls, roofs with copper tiles, windows for ventilating and overlooking, dharani pillars, etc..
To see is to believe. Welcome to Tibet and explore this distinguished architecture by yourself.
Thanks for your message. This page is written by Louis at Tibet Discovery. It was published on 25-06-2010.