Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (China) (C 707ter)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1994
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
March 2001: ICOMOS Monitoring mission; April 2003: UNESCO/ICOMOS expert mission; May 2005: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2015: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure (Expansion of tourism-related facilities in and adjacent to the boundary of the property)
- Commercial development; Ground transport infrastructure (Negative impact of the rehabilitation projects on the protection of the traditional urban tissue of the historic centre)
- Deliberate destruction of heritage
- Housing (Uncontrolled urban development in and adjacent to the boundary of the property)
- Management systems / Management plan
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018
On 1 December 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report on the property, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707/documents/ and indicates the following:
- There is ongoing progress in valorizing and utilizing traditional knowledge systems in the conservation work at the property, and a number of traditional processes and techniques have been listed on the “National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage” and the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Autonomous Region”. Focus has been given on training young craftspeople to continue the traditions;
- Conservation plans have been developed by Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage for the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple Monastery, and by Henan Research Institute for Ancient Architecture for Norbulingka. These plans are linked to other urban plans for Lhasa and have undergone a comment and revision period. They have now been completed for approval. The three plans will be sent to the World Heritage Centre in due course;
- Efforts are underway to enhance monitoring of soil erosion and bedrock conditions at the Potala Palace, and specific research is being launched to analyse the spatial relationships between heritage components. This study will provide suggestions for urban design and planning in the protective zones of the property;
- Adequate administrative procedures have been developed for the examination and approval of new development projects. Concerning the proposed television tower, a study will be launched to assess the potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. Related regulatory systems have been established at the Tibet Autonomous Region and Lhasa Municipality levels, and a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) will be examined prior to the implementation of any project within the protective zones of the property;
- Policies have been put in place to ensure that the property functions as a pilgrimage site by providing tourists a positive experience that does not interfere with pilgrimage activities. Cultural environment management planning is also being explored through a pilot research project. Monitoring, maintenance, and conservation activities are also ongoing on various parts of the property;
- Necessary maps outlining the buffer zones will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre following the completion and approval of the conservation plans for the three component parts of the property. Regulations for the buffer zones will be contained within the conservation plans.
Following a fire at the Jokhang Temple Monastery in February 2018, the World Heritage Centre requested additional information and, on 16 March 2018, the State Party responded with the following:
- The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A ventilation chamber on the 2nd floor of the Back Hall of the Main hall caught fire and approximately 50m² of the hall burned. Emergency measures were immediately put in place, and the Golden Ceiling of the back hall was carefully dismantled to ensure that it could not be damaged in the event that the fire had caused structural problems (which was later determined not to be the case). The Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha suffered no damage, but was given a temporary protective covering as a precautionary measure;
- The fire only had a minor impact on the 1st floor, and Jokhang Temple Monastery was therefore reopened to the public the following day;
- Damage due to the fire included partial burn damage to the ventilation chamber and its golden ceiling and to some wooden columns and beams. The gilded bronze ceiling and other decorative elements remain intact, with several components suffering minor deformation or other burn damage. Some murals, baga soil walls, and aga soil floors from the 1980s also suffered damage. The main hall is stable, however, and remains open;
- Immediately following the fire, both the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the People’s Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have been working to assess damage. Repair work will be carried out, as soon as possible, once studies are completed. Fire monitoring and control will also be improved at the property, drawing lessons from this incident, and fire safety screenings are currently taking place at the property and other sites in Tibet.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
The efforts of the State Party are duly noted, notably with valorizing traditional knowledge systems, improving visitor experience for pilgrims and tourists, improving monitoring and maintenance systems, and launching studies to analyse spatial relationships between the component parts of the property and cultural environment management planning.
The provision of maps which clearly define the buffer zones should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre as a matter of priority, in accordance with multiple prior Decisions of the Committee. The State Party’s advice that regulations for the buffer zones will be contained within the conservation plans for the component parts of the property is welcome. The three conservation plans for the component parts of the property should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies as soon as possible.
It is also noted that a study will be launched to assess the potential impacts of the proposed television tower on the OUV of the property. The study should follow the methodology of the 2011 ICOMOS Guidance on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage Properties and be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies as soon as it is completed and before any work begins.
In regard to the fire of February 2018, the preliminary report contained in the additional information is acknowledged, along with the work carried out in the immediate aftermath of the fire. As more detailed damage assessments are carried out and plans for restoration are developed, more detailed reports, including images, drawings and other graphic illustrations of all the damage, paying particular attention to the Golden Ceiling, should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies.
In this regard, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the damage caused by the fire and the proposed restoration works to be undertaken, as well as to examine other aspects of the state of conservation of the property.
Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.2
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.31, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Expresses its regret at the fire of February 2018, and notes the work carried out by the State Party in the immediate aftermath of the fire;
- Requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, more detailed reports of all the damage caused by the aforementioned fire, including images, drawings and other graphic illustrations and paying particular attention to the Golden Ceiling, as more detailed damage assessments are being carried out and restoration plans developed;
- Takes note of the completion of the three conservation plans for the component parts of the property, which are awaiting final approval, and requests that they be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies as soon as possible, along with the maps to clarify the buffer zones, in line with the procedures defined in the Operational Guidelines;
- Also takes note of the efforts of the State Party to valorize traditional knowledge systems, improve visitor experience for pilgrims and tourists, improve monitoring and maintenance systems, and launch studies to analyse spatial relationships between the component parts of the property and cultural environment management planning;
- Acknowledges the study to be launched on the potential impacts of the proposed television tower on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and also requests that the study be undertaken in accordance with the 2011 ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessment for Cultural World Heritage properties and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as soon as it is completed and before any work begins;
- Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the damage caused by the fire and the proposed restoration works to be undertaken, as well as to examine other aspects of the state of conservation of the property;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.