About Potala palace
Mainly comprised by the White Palace (administrate building) and the Red Palace (Religious building), the Potala Palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated constructions, devotional atmosphere and splendid artworks. The White Palace, comprising halls, temples and courtyards, serves as the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. From the east entrance of the palace, painted with images of Four Heavenly Kings, a broad corridor upwards leads to Deyang Shar courtyard, which used to be where Dalai Lamas watched operas. Around the large and open courtyard, there used to be a seminary and dormitories. West of the courtyard is the White Palace. There are three ladder stairs reaching inside of it, however, the central one was reserved for only Dalai Lamas and Higher Official to Tibet.
In the first hallway, there are huge murals describing the construction of Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple and the procession of Princess Wencheng reaching Tibet. On the south wall, visitors will see an edict signed with the Hand print of Great Fifth and Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The White Palace mainly serves as the political headquarters and Dalai Lamas’ living quarters. The West Chamber of Sunshine and the East Chamber of Sunshine lie as the roof of the White Palace. They belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama respectively. Beneath the East Chamber of Sunshine is the largest hall in the White Palace, where Dalai Lamas ascended throne and ruled Tibet.
The Red Palace, with seven golden roofs on its flat top, is renowned for its religious status, gorgeous pagoda and precious culture relics. The dominant buildings of the Red Palace are the stupa-tombs halls of Dalai Lamas and kinds of halls for worshipping Buddha. It was constructed after the death of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The centre of the complicated Red Palace is the Great West Hall, which records the Great Fifth Dalai Lama’s life by its fine murals. In the East Chapel a two meters (6.5 feet) high statue of TsongKhapa, the founder of Gelug which is Dalai Lama’s lineage, is enshrined and worshipped. The South Chapel is where a silver statue of Padmasambhava and 8 bronze statues of his reincarnations are enshrined. On the floor above, there is a gallery which has a collection of 698 murals, portraying Buddha, Bodhisattva, Dalai Lamas and great adepts and narrating Jataka stories and significant Tibetan historic events. West of the Great West Hall locates the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s stupa hall. The North Chapel contains statues of Sakyamuni, Dalai Lamas and Medicine Buddha, and stupas of the Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Dalai Lamas.
In the Potala Palace, there are eight stupa-tomb chapels (where the relics of the Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas are preserved. The stupa-tomb of the first Dalai Lama, known as a silver stupa, is situated in Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse; and the silver stupa-tomb of Dalai Lama II, III, IV are carefully placed in Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. The stupa-tomb of Dalai Lama XIII, is now in another Palace which is also a part of the Potala Palace. Among the seven stupa-tombs in the Potala Palace, the stupa-tomb of Dalai Lama V, which was built in 1691, are known as the earliest and largest one. Records say that it is made of sandalwood, wrapped in gold foil and decorated with thousands of diamonds, pearls, agates and others gems. The stupa, with a height of 14.86 meters (49 feet), spends more than 3,700 kilograms of gold.
Delicately designed, the lively patterns on the stupa-tombs look amazing and attractive. Mainly decorated with amber, pearl, coral, agate, diamond and other precious stones, the surfaces add more value to the whole stupa-tombs. Apart from the patterns, precious things housed in the stupas also make it more and more valuable. There are, a large number of cultural relics, the stupa of Sakyamuni and a thumb from figure of him, a piece of posthumous decree of king Songtsan Gambo, a portrait embroidered by Princess wencheng, things left by the previous high-rank monks and so on. According to the Tibetan custom, the mummified and perfumed bodies of Dalai lamas and Panchen Lamas are well kept in stupas, which is known as Stupa Funeral.
Around the stupa-tomb chapel of the Fifth Dalai Lama, there are also some chapels in which thousands of precious books and numerous scriptures written in Chinese, Manchu and Mongolian are carefully kept. In addition, many hand-writing copies and printed books about history, Medicine, culture, Buddhism and so on are also well kept there. It is recorded that the total number of those books is over 200.000.
The thirteenth Dalai Lama’s stupa chapel is the hall where the stupa of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876-1933) is housed. People started to build his stupa after his death in the fall of 1933, so it’s the latest building in Potala Palace. Taking three years, the stupa is comparable with the Great Fifth’s stupa. It is 14 meters (46 feet) in height, which is only 0.86 metres lower than the Fifth Dalai Lama’s. Made of a large amount of silver, covered with about 600 kilograms of gold and studded with lots of coral, amber, agate, diamond and other precious jewellery, the stupa is ten times as valuable as that of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s. In front of the stupa, there is a mandala made of more than 200,000 pearls and 40.000 other gems. Murals in the hall tell important events in his life, including his visit with Emperor Guangxu. The precious complete volumes of KanGyur have also been preserved in the chapel.