In 641, after marrying Princess Winching, Songster Gump decided to build a grand palace to for her and in memory of the event. However, the original palace was destroyed due to a lightning strike and succeeding warfare during Landama’s time. In the seventeenth century when the Fifth Dalai Lama was in power, Potala was rebuilt. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama expanded it to today’s scale. The monastery-like palace, leaning against Red Hill, was the religious and political center of old and the winter palace of Dalai Lamas. The palace is more than 117 meters (384 feet) high and 360 (1180 feet) wide, with an area of 90 thousand square meters. Potala includes White Palace and Red Palace. The White Palace is for guests while the red one is for religion.
The White Palace consists of offices, dormitories, a Buddhist official seminary and a printing house. From the east entrance of the palace, painted with images of Four Heavenly Kings, a broad corridor upwards leads to Deyang Shar courtyard, which was where Dalai Lamas watched operas. Around the large and open courtyard, there was a seminary and dormitories. The White Palace is to the west of the courtyard. There are three ladder stairs to get inside of it, but the central one was only used by Dalai Lamas and central governors. In the first hallway, there are huge wall paintings describing the building of Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple and the procession of Princess Wencheng reaching. On the south wall, visitors will see an edict signed with the Great Fifth’s handprint. The White Palace mainly serves as the political headquarter and Dalai Lamas’ living quarters. The West Chamber of Sunshine and the East Chamber of Sunshine is 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 came to power. The Red Palace was built after the death of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The center of the complicated Red Palace is the Great West Hall, which records the Great Fifth Dalai Lama’s life by its fine wall paintings. The painting which shows his visit to Emperor Shunzhi in Beijing in 1652 is impressive. The hall has four additional chapels. The West Chapel stores three gold stupas（舍利子）of the Fifth, Tenth and Twelfth Dalai Lamas’. Their bodies are well kept in those stupas. Among the three, the Fifth Dalai Lama’s stupa is the biggest, which is made of sandalwood, wrapped in gold foil and decorated with thousands of diamonds, pearls, agates（玛瑙）and others gems（宝石）. The stupa, which is 14.86 meters (49 feet) high, uses more than 3,700 kilograms of gold. The North Chapel contains statues of Sakyamuni, Dalai Lamas and Medicine Buddha, and stupas of the Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Dalai Lamas. Against the wall is Tanjur (Beijing edition), a very important Buddhist sutra sent to the Seventh Dalai Lama by Emperor Yongzheng. In the East Chapel a two meters (6.5 feet) high statue of Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelugpa which is Dalai Lama’s ancestor, is remembered and worshipped. In addition, about 70 famous experts in an Buddhism surround him. The South Chapel is where a silver statue of
Padmasambhava and 8 bronze statues of his regenerations are kept. On the floor above, there is a gallery with a collection of 698 wall paintings, showing the stories of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dalai Lamas and great experts and jataka and significant historic events. West of the Great Hall locates the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s stupa hall. Since he was regarded as great as the Great Fifth, people started to build his stupa after his death in the fall of 1933. Taking three years, the stupa is
comparable with the Great Fifth’s stupa. It is 14 meters (46 feet) high, covered by a ton (2200 pounds) of gold foils. In front of it is a mandala made of more than 200,000 pearls and other gems. Wall paintings in the hall tell important events in his life, including his visit with Emperor
Guangxu. The highest hall of Potala was built in 1690. It used to be the holy temple of Chinese Emperors. Dalai Lamas would come here with his officials and high lamas to show their respects to the central government annually before.
Dharma Cave and the Saint’s Chapel are the only structures left which were built in seventh century. They both lie in the central of the Red Palace. Dharma Cave is said to be the place where King Songtsen Gampo proceeded his religious cultivation. Inside the cave, we can see the statues of Songtsen Gampo, Princess Wencheng, Princess Tritsun and his chief ministers. In the Saint’s Chapel above Dharma Cave, the statues of Chenrezi, Tsong Khapa, Padmasambhava, the Fifth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Dalai Lamas are kept and worshipped. Visitors may find a stone with a footprint that was believed to be left by the infant Twelfth Dalai Lama. Notes: