The Potala Palace, winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century, symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The complex, comprising the White and Red Palaces with their ancillary buildings, is built on Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of 3,700m. Also founded in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist religious complex. Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.
The Potala Palace
© Sacred Sites / Martin Gray
Outstanding Universal Value
Enclosed within massive walls, gates and turrets built of rammed earth and stone the White and Red Palaces and ancillary buildings of the Potala Palace rise from Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley at an altitude of 3,700 metres. As the winter palace of the Dalai Lama from the 7th century CE the complex symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The White Palace contains the main ceremonial hall with the throne of the Dalai Lama, and his private rooms and audience hall are on the uppermost level. The palace contains 698 murals, almost 10,000 painted scrolls, numerous sculptures, carpets, canopies, curtains, porcelain, jade, and fine objects of gold and silver, as well as a large collection of sutras and important historical documents. To the west and higher up the mountain the Red Palace contains the gilded burial stupas of past Dalai Lamas. Further west is the private monastery of the Dalai Lama, the Namgyel Dratshang.
The Jokhang Temple Monastery was founded by the regime also in the 7th century, in order to promote the Buddhist religion. Covering 2.5ha in the centre of the old town of Lhasa, it comprises an entrance porch, courtyard and Buddhist hall surrounded by accommodation for monks and storehouses on all four sides. The buildings are constructed of wood and stone and are outstanding examples of the Tibetan Buddhist style, with influences from China, India, and Nepal. They house over 3,000 images of Buddha and other deities and historical figures along with many other treasures and manuscripts. Mural paintings depicting religious and historical scenes cover the walls.
Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace constructed in the 18th century, is located on the bank of the Lhasa River about 2km west of the Potala Palace in a lush green environment. It comprises a large garden with four palace complexes and a monastery as well as other halls, and pavilions all integrated into the garden layout to create an exceptional work of art covering 36ha. The property is closely linked with religious and political issues, having been a place for contemplation and for signing political agreements.
The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka embody the administrative, religious and symbolic functions of the Tibetan theocratic government through their location, layout and architecture. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, contribute to their Outstanding Universal Value.
Criterion (i): The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace is an outstanding work of human imagination and creativity, for its design, its decoration and its harmonious setting within a dramatic landscape. The three-in-one historic ensemble of the Potala Palace, with Potala the palace-fort complex, Norbulingka the garden residence and the Jokhang Temple Monastery the temple architecture, each with its distinctive characteristics, forms an outstanding example of traditional Tibetan architecture.
Criterion (iv): The scale and artistic wealth of the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, which represents the apogee of Tibetan architecture, make it an outstanding example of theocratic architecture, of which it was the last surviving example in the modern world.
Criterion (vi): The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace forms a potent and exceptional symbol of the integration of secular and religious authority.
The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace owns tens of thousands of collections of diverse cultural relics. The wall paintings are rich in themes, form the best of Tibetan painting art and precious material evidence for learning Tibetan history and the multi-ethnic cultural fusion. The historic scale, architectural typology and the historic environment remain intact within the property area and within the buffer zone, carrying the complete historic information of the property.
In terms of design, material, technology and layout, the historic ensemble of the Potala Palace has well retained its original form and characteristics since it was first built and from successive significant additions and expansions, convincingly testifying to its Outstanding Universal Value.
Protection and management requirements
The three components of the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, the Potala Palace, Norbulingka and the Jokhang Temple are all State Priority Protected Sites, and protected by the Law on the Protection of Cultural Relies of the People's Republic of China.The Potala Palace was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994, the Jokhang Temple in 2000 as an extension to the property, and Norbulingka in 2001 as a further extension to the property. The buffer zone of the property has been confirmed as originally demarcated. Any intervention must be approved by the responsible cultural heritage administration, with restoration strictly in accordance with the principle of retaining the historic condition. The Potala Palace Management Regulations have been put into force; measures are formulated and taken for better visitor management. A World Heritage Steering Committee has been established in Lhasa. The conservation and management plans for the three component parts of the World Heritage property have been formulated and will be submitted and put into force as soon as possible.
The Potala Palace symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. Also founded in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist religious complex. Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.
Construction of the Potala Palace began at the time of Songtsen of the Thubet (Tubo) dynasty in the 7th century AD. It was rebuilt in the mid-17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama in a campaign that lasted 30 years, reaching its present size in the years that followed, as a result of repeated renovation and expansion.
The Potala is located on Red Mountain, 3,700 m above sea level, in the centre of the Lhasa valley. It covers an area of over 130,000 m2 and stands more than 110 m high. The White palace is approached by a winding road leading to an open square in front of the palace. Its central section is the East Main Hall, where all the main ceremonies take place. The throne of the Dalai Lama is on the north side of the hall, the walls of which are covered with paintings depicting religious and historical themes. At the top of the White Palace is the personal suite of the Dalai Lama.
The Red Palace lies to the west of the White Palace. Its purpose is to house the stupas holding the remains of the Dalai Lamas. It also contains many Buddha and sutra halls. To the west of the Red Palace is the Namgyel Dratshang, the private monastery of the Dalai Lama. Other important components of the Potala complex are the squares to the north and south and the massive palace walls, built from rammed earth and stone and pierced by gates on the east, south and west sides.
Building of the Jokhang Temple Monastery began in the 7th century CE, during the Tang dynasty in China. The Tibetan imperial court eagerly espoused Buddhism when it was introduced,
The site of the Temple Monastery was selected, according to legend, when the cart in which Wen Cheng was bringing the statue of Sakyamuni sank into the mud by Wotang Lake. Divination identified this as the site of the Dragon Palace, the malign influence of which could only be counteracted by the building of a monastery. The foundation stone was laid in 647 and the first major reconstruction took place in the early 11th century. During the century following the reunification of the Tibetan kingdom by the Sakya dynasty in the mid-13th century, a number of new developments took place. These included extension of the Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni and construction of a new entrance and the Hall of Buddha Dharmapala.
The Temple Monastery is in the centre of the old town of Lhasa. It comprises essentially an entrance porch, a courtyard and a Buddhist hall, surrounded by accommodation for monks and storehouses on all four sides. The buildings are constructed of wood and stone. The 7th Dalai Lama is reported to have had health problems and he used to come here for a cure.
The construction of Norbulingka started in 1751 with the Uya Palace. Successive Dalai Lamas continued building pavilions, palaces and halls, making it their summer residence, and soon the site became another religious, political, and cultural centre of Tibet, after the Potala Palace. Norbulingka (treasure garden) is located at the bank of the Lhasa River about 2 km west of the Potala Palace. The site consists of a large garden with several palaces, halls, and pavilions, amounting to some 36 ha. The area is composed of five sections. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
According to historical records, construction of the Potala Palace began in the time of Songtsen Gampo of the Thubet or Tubo dynasty in the 7th century AD. It was rebuilt in the mid 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama. It reached its present size and form in the years that foilowed, as a result of repeated renovation and expansion.
Songtsen Gampo (reigned c. 609-649) played a very important role in the political, economie, and cultural development of Tibet; he also encouraged close links with central China. He united Tibet and, for political and military reasons, moved the capital from Lalong to Lhasa, where he built a palace on the Red Mountain in the centre of the city. He married Princess Tritsun (Bhrikuti) of the Nepalese Royal House and Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. 1t is recorded that his palace was an enormous complex of buildings with three defensive walls and 999 rooms, plus one on the peak of the Red Mountain.
Following the collapse of the Tubo Dynasty in the 9th century, Tibetan society was plunged into a long period of turmoil, during which the Red Mountain Palace fell into disrepair. However, it began to assume the role of a religious site. During the 12th century Khyungpo Drakse of the Kadampa sect preached there, and it was later used for the same purpose by Tshurpu Karmapa and Tsongkapa, founder of the Gelukpa sect, and his disciples.
The Gelukpa sect developed rapidly in Tibet during the 15th century, assuming the dominant place. With the help of Gushri Khan, leader of the Mongol Khoshotd tribe, the 5th Dalai Lama defeated the Karmapa Dynasty in the mid 17th century and founded the Ganden Phodrang Dynasty. The dynasty's first seat of government was the Drepung Monastery; however, since the Red Mountain Palace bad been the residence of Songtsen Gampo and was close to the three major temples of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden, it was decided to rebuild it in arder to facilitate joint political and religious leadership. Reconstruction began in 1645, and three years later a complex of buildings with the White Palace (Phodrang Karpo) as its nucleus was completed. The 5th Dalai Lama moved there from Drepung Monastery, and ever since that time the Potala Palace bas been the residence and seat of government of succeeding Dalai Lamas.
Building of the Red Palace was begun by Sangye Gyatsho, the chief executive official of the time, eight years after the death of the 5th Dalai Lama, as a memorial to him and to accommodate his funerary stupa. It was completed four years later, in 1694, and is second in size only to the White Palace. With its construction the Potala Palace became a vast complex of palace halls, Buddha halls, and stupas. Funerary stupas (chortens) were added in memory of the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 13th Dalai Lamas, each within its own hall. The most recent is that of the 13th Dalai Lama, the building of which lasted from 1934 to 1936.
Special mention should be made of the fact that the Meditation Cave of the Dharma King, situated at the top of the mountain where Songtsen Gampo is said to have studied, and the Lokeshvara Chapel, both of which preceded the building of the present Palace, have been incorporated into the complex.
Building of the Jokhang Temple Monastery began in the reign of Srong-brtsan-sgam-po XXXII in the 7th century CE, during the Tang Dynasty in China. This ruler united Tibet and moved his capital to Demon (present-day Lhasa). The Tibetan imperial court eagerly espoused Buddhism when it was introduced, and this process was intensified when Princess Bhikruti of Nepal and Princess Wen Cheng of the Tang Dynasty came to Tibet as royal consorts.
The site of the Temple Monastery was selected, according to legend, when the cart in which Wen Cheng was bringing the statue of Sakyamuni sank into the mud by Wotang Lake. The Princess used divination to identify this as the site of the Dragon Palace, the malign influence of which could only be counteracted by the building of a monastery. The foundation stone was laid in 647 and the foundations were completed within a year.
In 823 the Tibetan regime and the Tang Dynasty entered into an alliance. To commemorate this event a stone was erected outside the monastery, known as the Stone Tablet of Long- Term Unity.
The first major reconstruction of the Jokhang Temple Monastery took place in the early 11th century. The Jokhang Buddhist Hall was extensively renovated and the Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni was added to its eastern side. The circumambulatory corridor around the hall was added around 1167, when the mural paintings were restored. Upward curving tiled eaves were added in the early 13th century.
During the century following the reunification of the Tibetan kingdom by the Sakya Dynasty in the mid-13th century, a number of new developments took place. These included extension of the Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni, construction of a new entrance and the Hall of Buddha Dharmapala, and the introduction of sculptures of Srong-brtsan-sgam-po, Wen Cheng, and Bhikruti Devi. Buddhist halls and golden tiled roofs were added on the third storey on the east, west, and north sides.
Tsongka Pa founded the reforming Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism in the early 15th century, initiating the Great Prayer Festival. At his instigation part of the inner courtyard of the main Jokhang Hall was roofed.
Tibet was formally included in the Chinese domain during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). In 1642 the 5th Dalai Lama, who had received an Imperial title from the Qing rulers of China, began a project of restoration that was to last thirty years. It was continued during the regency of Sangyetgyatso (1679-1703). The main entrance of the Temple Monastery, the Ten Thousand Buddha Corridor (Qianfolang), the Vendana Path, and the third and fourth storeys of the main Buddhist Hall all date from this period.
The site of Norbulingka was a place with gentle streams, dense and lush forest, birds, and animals known as Lava tsel. The 7th Dalai Lama is reported to have had health problems and he used to come here for a cure. The construction of Norbulingka started in 1751 with the Uya Palace, benefiting from financial assistance from the central government. Successive Dalai Lamas continued building pavilions, palaces, and halls, making it their summer residence, and soon the site became another religious, political, and cultural centre of Tibet, after the Potala Palace. The Gesang Palace was built in 1755 and included a court for debates. The Tsoje Palace and the Jensen Palace were built by the 13th Dalai Lama in the 1920s, influenced by his time in Beijing; the Gesang Deje Palace was constructed in 1926. The Tagtan Migyur Palace was built in 1954-56 with support from the Central People's Government. Since the departure of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959, Norbulingka has been managed first by the Culture Management Group under the Preparatory Committee of the Autonomous Region and later directly by the Cultural Management Committee and Bureau. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation