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Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa

Factors affecting the property in 1999*
  • Deliberate destruction of heritage
  • Housing
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Relative humidity
  • Ritual / spiritual / religious and associative uses
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Boundaries of the property
  • Pressures of urban development and Growth in tourism-related activities resulting in many construction activities
  •  Reconstruction and/or demolition of historic structures and rebuilding with new material and design features
  • Deterioration of mural paintings due to humidity; use of lacquer varnish and excessive retouches
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1999
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 1999**
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1999

Summary of previous deliberations: In approving the inscription of this site on the World Heritage List at its eighteenth session in 1994, the Committee recommended the Chinese authorities to extend the boundary to include Jokhang Temple and the surrounding historic quarters. This point was discussed at the twentieth extraordinary session of the Bureau in November 1996 and the Delegate of China informed the Bureau that the Chinese authorities were in favour of this extension as recommended by the Committee. A report was submitted to the World Heritage Centre by the State Bureau of Cultural Relics of China in July 1998, which indicated that the Government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region would be formally requesting the inclusion of Jokhang Temple within this site, and that the responsible Chinese authorities would proceed accordingly. On 18 August 1998, the World Heritage Centre requested the Director-General of the State Bureau of Cultural Relics of China to provide further information on the progress of the extension before 1 October 1998. No written correspondence has however been received by the Secretariat.

To protect the setting of the site, modern residences and shops around the square in front of the Palace, which were not in harmony with the historical monuments, were removed by the local authority. The use of traditional building material and methods in the restoration work is being promoted so as to preserve the original architectural features of the site. Publications concerning the architectural styles, paintings, sculptures and the contents of all the cultural properties of the Potala Palace were prepared and distributed by the local authorities to raise awareness amongst the general public.

The Bureau, at its twenty-second extraordinary session in November 1998, took note of the concerns raised in press reports and by international experts on the demolition of historic buildings and new construction activities in the Barkhor historic area encircling the Jokhang Temple which is part of the proposed extension area, and requested the Chinese authorities for information in this regard

The World Heritage Committee, at its twenty-second session held in December 1998, noted the Bureau’s request to the State Party again requested the Chinese authorities for information concerning the possible extension of this site. To date, no additional information has been received by the Secretariat.

Action Required
The Bureau may wish to examine further information that may be made available at the time of its session and take the appropriate decision thereupon. The Secretariat may briefly report to the Bureau the progress made in the extension of this property, if the nomination is submitted by 1 July 1999.
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1999

Previous deliberations:

World Heritage Bureau, twentieth session - Chapter III.19

World Heritage Committee, twentieth session - Chapter VII.48

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-second extraordinary session  - Chapter III.C

World Heritage Committee, twenty-second session - Chapter VII.43

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-third session - Chapter IV.53


New information:In anticipation of the extension of the boundaries of the World Heritage site of the Potala Palace to include the Jokhang Temple and the Barkhor historic area, as requested by the State Party in July 1999 in response to the 1994 recommendation of the Committee, the national and local authorities have enhanced their efforts in the documentation and conservation of the monumental and urban heritage of the proposed extension area. Collaboration with international non-governmental organizations, international universities and local authorities linkage activities have been strengthened in these areas. The active participation of the Lhasa Municipality in the Suzhou International Conference for the Mayors of Historic Cities of China and the European Union (April 1998) organized by the Centre and the Ministry of Construction of China, and other activities within the framework of the Centre’s Special Programme for the Cities of Asia are noteworthy. A delegation from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) visited Norway in October 1999 under the framework of the Tibet-Norway University Network Co-operation scheme to determine the next series of co-operation activities, some of which are proposed to be in association with the World Heritage Centre. The organization of a technical workshop with support from UNESCO and NIKU (Norwegian Conservation Institute), has been proposed to (1) review the Old Lhasa Historical Map, a Norwegian supported project carried out since 1996, and (2) to impart with recent mural painting conservation skills through an on-the-job training workshop to restore the paintings of Lukhang Temple of the Potala Palace.

In view of continued incidents of illegal demolition and inappropriate reconstructions in the Barkhor historic area, mainly by private and business concerns, the Centre and the State Party are currently discussing measures to raise awareness and respect for conservation among the local population.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1999
23 BUR IV.B.53
The Potala Palace, Lhasa (The People’s Republic of China)

In approving the inscription of this site on the World Heritage List at its eighteenth session in 1994, the Committee recommended the Chinese authorities to extend the boundary to include Jokhang Temple and its surrounding historic quarters.

The Bureau was informed by the World Heritage Centre that the nomination for the extension of the Potala Palace to include the Jokhang Temple and its surrounding Barkhor historic area had been submitted to the World Heritage Centre, by letter of 30 June 1999. 

The Bureau expressed its appreciation to the Government of China for following up on the recommendation of the World Heritage Committee. It encouraged the State Party to continue safeguarding the Barkhor historic area encircling the Jokhang Temple, pending examination by the twenty-fourth session of the Bureau of the submitted nomination for extension.

23 COM X.B.46
State of conservation reports of cultural properties noted by the Committee

X.46 The Committee noted the decisions of the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau as reflected in the Report of the Bureau session (Working Document WHC-99/CONF.209/6) and included in Annex VIII of this report on the following properties:

Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis (Argentina and Brazil)

The Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana (Argentina)

The Potala Palace, Lhasa (China)

City of Quito (Ecuador)

The Delegate of Ecuador informed the Committee that the volcano Pichincha had erupted on 5 October and November 26 1999 and that the National Institute for Cultural Heritage (INPC) and the Municipality of Quito had taken preventive measures to protect the population and the monuments.

Historic Centre of Tallin (Estonia)

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay (France)

Roman Monuments, Cathedral and Liebfrauen Church in Trier (Germany)

Ashanti Traditional Buildings (Ghana)

Churches and Convents of Goa (India)

Luang Prabang (Laos)

Island of Mozambique (Mozambique)

Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha (Nepal)

The Observer of HMG of Nepal assured the Committee that the conservation of the Maya Devi Temple would be undertaken following international conservation norms prescribed by the World Heritage Convention. He informed the Committee that HMG of Nepal would be grateful to receive expert suggestions from UNESCO concerning the draft conceptual design for the Maya Devi Temple conservation work, as such advice would be a guideline for elaborating the details of the design under preparation. The Observer assured the Committee that the designs for the works at Maya Devi Temple, once completed, would be transmitted to UNESCO, as assured by HMG of Nepal. The Observer informed the Committee that a technical cooperation request for the organization of an international technical meeting to discuss the proposed project for the conservation, restoration, and presentation of the Maya Devi Temple, would be submitted, following the request of the Bureau at its twenty-third session.

Archaeological Site of Chavin (Peru)

City of Cuzco (Peru)

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines)

The Observer of the Philippines assured the Committee that the long-term integrated development plan of the site, including a tourism development plan for the site, would be submitted in due course to UNESCO, preferably before 15 September 2000. To ensure that the authenticity and sustainable conservation of this fragile site is maintained, the Observer stated that his Government would avail of the generous offer of the Committee to provide technical expertise under the World Heritage Fund.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

The Sokkuram Grotto and Pulguksa Temple (Republic of Korea)

Alhambra, Generalife and Albaycin, Grenada (Spain)

Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey)

The Observer of Turkey thanked the Bureau for the sympathies expressed for the victims of the earthquake this year. The Observer stated that Istanbul is the only one among the nine World Heritage sites in Turkey located in the region impacted by the August 1999 earthquake. While the damage can only be measured over time, initial assessment has noted minor cracks in several historic monuments including the Hagia Sophia, and four museums. Severe cracks have, however, been noted in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the conservation laboratory which is housed in an historic monument, in two historic library buildings, and in more than ten tombs as well as in the city walls (ramparts). The Committee was informed that the impact report of the second earthquake (in November 1999) on World Heritage sites had not been received by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey from its regional offices. The Observer said that a detailed report would be submitted to the Committee through the Secretariat as soon as it is completed.

With regard to the urban conservation plan of the historic peninsula of Istanbul, the Observer informed the Committee that the 1/5000 scale plan has just been completed and submitted to the Greater Istanbul Council and upon approval, will be transmitted to the Regional Conservation Council for clearance. As soon as this is officially approved, the 1/1000 scale plan will be prepared for the Fatih and Eminonu municipalities. In addition, the 1/500 scale detailed conservation plan for the Zeyrek district prepared by Istanbul Technical University, which was co-funded by the World Heritage Fund is about to be completed, and will be submitted to the Fatih Municipality for approval. The Observer thanked the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for having mobilized international support for the conservation of Istanbul's urban heritage, and in this regard, expressed particular appreciation for the financial support extended by the European Commission and the Government of France.

The Observer concluded her intervention by saying that due to the need to finance earthquake rehabilitation activities, the budget of all government services had been severely cut, including that of the Ministry of Culture. While on-going joint conservation projects with the municipalities of Istanbul will be continued, no expansion in the area of work or additional activities will be possible for 2000.

The Delegate of Greece called upon the Committee to provide support to Turkey in the rehabilitation of the earthquake damage. In this regard, she recalled her statement at the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau, which pointed to the need to prioritize the object of international support in view of the vast conservation needs of the Istanbul World Heritage area. The Chairperson, in his personal capacity stated that this spirit of collaboration and solidarity expressed by Greece in favour of Turkey was a demonstration of the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following decision and transmit it to the Committee for noting:

“The Bureau expresses appreciation for enhanced international co-operation for the conservation of the monumental and urban heritage of the historic area of Barkhor, notably the long-term support offered by the Norwegian authorities and universities. The Bureau takes note of the proposed training activities in urban conservation planning and mural painting restoration with the involvement of UNESCO and the Norwegian Conservation Institute (NIKU) among others. The Bureau recalls the interest expressed by ICCROM and ICOMOS in these activities and requests the State Party to consider their involvement, especially in training activities. The Bureau expresses its readiness to consider international assistance from the World Heritage Fund to support the national and local efforts in these areas and requests the World Heritage Centre to work in close collaboration with the State Party. »

Report year: 1999
Date of Inscription: 1994
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iv)(vi)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.