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Potala Palace

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Potala Palace is the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art and a symbol of Tibetan people's wisdom and power. It is located on the western part of Lhasa City. In 641, Songtsan Ganpu decided to build this grand palace for his wife - Princess Wencheng of the Tang dynasty. However, it was later destroyed by some lightening strike and warfare in Landama's reign. Only in 17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama rebuilt it. And then The Thirteenth Dalai Lama expanded it to today's scale. The palace is more than 117 meters high and 360 meters wide. Standing on the top of Mt. Putup, it looms over the entire Lhasa city. In 1994, Potala Palace was listed as one of the world cultural heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Today the Potala Palace continues to dominate the Lhasa skyline and is the most visible of all of the city's sights. It offers one of the best views of Lhasa and the surrounding area, especially in the early morning. The Potala Palace is comprised of the White Palace, which was the living quarters of the Dalai Lama and the central religious Red Palace. It's in the Red Palace that you can move through narrow corridors, dimly lit by many small butter lamps, to see the jewel-encrusted tomb stupas of the 5th and the 7th to 13th Dalai Lamas. The many chapels and former apartments give an insight to what life must have been like centuries ago in this theocratic sanctuary.

Some of Tibet's richest treasures are held in the Potala Palace, particularly in the western part of the Red Palace. One especially dramatic sight is the jewel-encrusted tomb of Lobsang Gyatso, the 5th Dalai Lama. His 14.85m tall tomb stupa contains 3,721kg of gilded gold as well as 10,000 precious pearls and stones. One of the most beautiful works of Buddhist art is also here, the mandala of the Wheel of Time which contains 200,000 pearls as well as coral, turquoise and gold thread. Mandalas are a pictorial representation of the Buddhist universe; not only are they beautifully intricate, they're also deeply symbolic. They're an aid in teaching young monks while older monks use them as a visualization tool for meditation.