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Lhasa's Potala Palace

2013-02-20 15:29 Confucius Institute Online     Web Editor: Wang YuXia comment

In Tibet, there was a kind of government structure called "Zong Shan". "Zong" means a local Tibetan administrative unit, equivalent to a county in interior areas. The government center of a "Zong" was mostly constructed on the hill, thus becoming a castle called "Zong Shan". Lhasa's Potala Palace, the greatest building inTibet, is both the highest "Zong Shan" and the temple of the gods of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Potala Palace, built on the Potala Hill (Red Hill), is an extremely magnificent castle, the only example in ancient China and a masterpiece rare even in world architectural history. In outward appearance, the 13-storey building is about 119 meters high, and covers an area of 100,000 square meters. Work to construct the Potala Palace began in 7th centuryof the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in honor of the Tang Princess Wenchen who was sent to marry Zhanpu King of Tufen Kingdom in Tibet, but was later destroyed in war. The present Potala Palace was rebuilt in the 2nd year (1645) of the rule of Qing Emperor Shizu, around the time when the fifth Dalai Lama went to Beijing to have an audience with him. It took 50 years to complete.

The outer walls of the central part of the Potala Palace are painted red, earning it the name of the Red Palace. Inside is the stupa hall containing stupa for the Dalai Lamas of all ages, as well as Buddhist halls. The east and west of the Red Palace are linked to the east and west White Palaces. The east White Palace holds the living area of the Dalai Lamas, while the west White Palace serves as monks' living rooms. Extending forward from the lower part of the Red Palace is a white terrace linking the east and west White Palaces, inside which are various warehouses.

The Red Palace is the highest and the largest. In the middle, there is a concave balcony belt running through the upper and lower parts, along with many gilded copper-tile roofed small halls on the flat-top, which enrich the composition of the whole palace and naturally become the composition center commanding the whole situation. A dark brown wall belt runs horizontally on the upper end of the whole palace, making the outline of the structure more distinct, echoing the Red Palace in color. Below the dark brown wall belt of theRedPalaceis a white wall belt echoing the wall surface of the White Palace. The structure is in tacit agreement with the chevron. The middle part of the front edge, set back a bit along with the hill, is the highest point of the structure right at the peak of the hill. The outer wall is inlaid with stones, its surface clearly inclined and appearing natural and steady. All these are close to the composition texture of natural hill stones. There is no distinct demarcation between the footing of the structures and the hill, man's work and nature being in harmony and tacit agreement.

Two rows of blank windows are added to the stone walls in the lower part, under which there is a 20-meter-high wall surface that exaggerates the height of the structure. On the dark brown wall belt there are many gilded copper plates. The chin-chuang, golden treasure bottles, and golden lotus on top of the wall extend into the sky and, together with the gilded roof, glow with charming radiance under the foil of the blue sky, white clouds and snow-clad mountain. From the bottom up, the way of treatment moves from coarse to fine, from simple to complex, from solid to charming and from monotonous to rich; the color goes from plain to colorful. Together, this naturally diverts people's sight line to the heights, making the structure loftier and more imposing.

The majestic, brilliant, magnificent and uninhibited Potala Palace has a strong artistic appeal and is an architectural art treasure that can be shown off to the world.

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