Potala Palace (布達拉宮) – A Paradise of Spiritual Pureness

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Potala Palace

(9th June)  In the midst of Lhasa city, lying peacefully across the high-altitude Plateau, stands an infamous landmark that soars above the natural plains and rocky mountains.  For centuries, the faraway sight of its white-washed walls and red-lined roofs, for many long-awaited pilgrims and tourists,  has connoted to a warm welcome after their arduous journey, come rain or shine.  When our eyes finally settled on this palace under the azure sky, we all knew our endeavour and days of impatient waiting are worthwhile.

We began climbing the zigzagging stairs that was on the way up to the highest palace on earth which is in around 3700m.  At each intersection we were all greeted by women holding prayer wheels tight for good luck; while monks in red robe were whispering Buddhist blessings to the visitors, often with hands clasped in prayer position.  Looking to the left, our eyes widened by the panoramic view across the Lhasa valley.  The old town spread beneath us like a living map with network of roads and mazes of alleys.  All houses and buildings, like pieces of jigsaw puzzle in an instant, were under our footsteps.  Chains of chestnut-coloured mountains with heaven-touching apex, were stretching at great lengths, jutted and reared into the sky.  With spectacular scenery below, it was so refreshing for us just to breathe the clear air during the rush of pure joy.

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Stairs to the Potala Palace
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Panoramic view of Lhasa
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Another spectacular view of Lhasa

The establishment of this site traced from 7th century, when Songtsan Gampo, who ascended the throne, completed his father’s cause for Tibet’s unification by setting up the Tubo Empire after the conquer of neighbouring tribes.  To cement the newly emerging power, after moving capital to Lhasa, he ordered to build the Potala Palace on the summit of 130m-high Red Hill.  Construction of the present appearance, nonetheless, commenced during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645 and took more than fifty years to complete.  Since then, the vast Potala Palace, a UNESCO world’s heritage, has become the winter residency of successive Dalai Lamas until the Tibetan Uprising in 1959, and nowadays, the spiritual centre of Tibet, always in the heart of Tibetans.

While reaching the top, those towering, fortress-like walls in the White Palace were immaculately clean and seemed to glisten under the bright midday sun.  Walking through the intricate hallways and gorgeous chapels, we couldn’t help but be astounded by those gorgeous architecture of main ceremonial hall and assembly halls with the throne of the Dalai Lama.  Inside this majestic seven-storey palace, in front of our curious eyes were the exquisite paintings of resplendent Buddhist murals, plateau landscapes, grand aesthetics and rows of ancient manuscripts.  At this particular moment, an atmosphere of prayerfulness floated across the air through the serene meditation of faithful believers.  Murmuring sounds of praying, by soft chants of Tibetan monks, reached our ears from afar, making the moment magical.  As a house of prayer, living quarters and seminaries by the Dalai Lama, the sights and sounds this holy part of the Potala Palace awakened us with spiritual tranquility.

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Entrance of the White Palace
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Appearance of the White Palace
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Inside one of the ceremonial halls

Then through a tunnel-like passage, we ushered to the Red Palace that was dazzled by the halls with lavishly ornamented mausoleums of past Dalai Lamas.  Even though only a handful of 1000 rooms were opened for tourists, the palace had precious relics like no other can compare.  Here, along with the sparkles of yak-butter candles and the rancid smells of intense smoke, monks in lines were performing daily rituals, expressing heartfelt honour to worship their spiritual leaders near to the stupa tombs.  One of the most stunning stupas definitely goes to the fifth Dalai Lama, who is credited with the construction of the Palace in 1648.  Standing five storeys high, the extravagant stupa is dazzled with an array of turquoises, pearls, and 3700 kg of gold, amounting to 150 million US dollars at current values.  Under the flicking of interior spotlights, every surface glittered with a blaze of colour, radiating in all its glory  when we wowed with immediate amazement.

This wondrous treasure on earth, with intricate architecture from centuries ago, otherworldly presents with striking artworks and venerated Buddhist statues.  Lifted with inexpressible rejoice, no one ever spoke as we left the Potala Palace in the evening – for it truly a sacred place shining with spiritual pureness that touched each of us in comfort.  The sight of those living quarters – and the jewel-bedecked mausoleums of the Dalai Lamas – was an enough reason to return to Lhasa city again in the future. ♦

More photos of the Potala Palace:

Next travel post: Jokhang (大昭寺) – The Mecca of Tibetan Buddhism

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18 thoughts on “Potala Palace (布達拉宮) – A Paradise of Spiritual Pureness”

  1. Thank you for sharing your spiritual impression with this lovely post… Lhasa is a place I wish to visit very soon, unfortunately, but I would like to do it organising the visit without a travel-agency. In the past, when in China, as a tourist I had the impression that “there are many little things” which are not for tourists to see… and that the organised tours inside China were made only to show the positive things, avoiding any contact with the local inhabitants. When I travel, I love to get in touch with the local, to share with them emotions, a plate of food, a drink… this wasn’t possible in China. But this was around 20-22 years ago… I don’t know how it is right now.
    I wish you many lovely trips :-)claudine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Claudine, you are most welcome. 😉 Travelling to Tibet without a travel agency is possible but you need to apply for Tibet Travel Permit beforehand. Yet I would recommend you to go there with a group of people and a local guide for getting used to high altitude there.

      To feel connected and explore more in every destination, I, along with my schoolmates, paid visit to the university for an exchange during my trip. Such cultural immersion experience just widened our horizon and made our trip memorable. Hope you could visit there in a nearer future and share breath-taking photos of Tibet one day in your blog as well! =D

      Liked by 1 person

    1. 多謝你的讚賞. 每次旅遊時, 我喜愛以照片作記錄, 將感受轉化為文字, 用心去感受當地的風土人情. 即使在若干年後, 透過這些描述, 往事仍日久常新, 還依然歷歷在目.
      西藏是個美麗的淨土, 真希望你能到那裏到此一遊呢! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your compliment! Potala Palace is one of the attractions in Tibet that I truly enjoy and I am really impressed by its grandeur when seeing it in front of my own eyes. No wonder it has always been the worth-visiting site! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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