Saturday, June 4, 2011

Potala Palace – Tibet

An experience no traveler could ever forget
1648928221 10bbceb0ff Potala Palace   Tibet
Flying into Tibet after having traveled over lush, mountainous areas of Western China was a shock. The barren, grey landscape can be foreboding and makes for an interesting first impression.
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(image credit: Nikolai Dudko)
1648998328 43ad8a0047 Potala Palace   Tibet
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(images credit: Andrew N. Grimes)
Each person has a vivid memory that others can’t recall
We somehow managed to stay in a comfortable guesthouse reserved for honored visitors which was a nice surprise. The altitude however was not so nice. At a base altitude of 12,300 feet, it takes considerable time to acclimate. Plus, everywhere you go venturing away from base is even higher. Thus, much of the visit was spent “in the clouds”, both literally and figuratively. The sights and events of the trip vary depending on who you talk to in our group.
1649549836 ccfbed52c3 Potala Palace   Tibet
1648680071 7c7f98327b Potala Palace   Tibet
(images credit: Nikolai Dudko)
A day trip to 17,500 feet took us past villages where yaks plowed the rocky landscape, and because nothing much grows at such an altitude, it seemed a lot of work with little return. The oxygen pillows provided us were meant to be sucked on when anyone started feeling lightheaded, but we were naive to think inhaling a small amount of oxygen would make much of a difference.
1648128837 a1b4226701 Potala Palace   Tibet
(image credit: Vladimir Pavlov)
1648559277 a044767820 Potala Palace   Tibet
(image credit: Nikolai Dudko)
One of us remembers many colored flags flying at the top of the mountain, one remembers a large lake, and another remembers signs pointing to all the other towns in Tibet – but each person has a vivid memory that others can’t recall.
1649216277 f977812f41 Potala Palace   Tibet
(image credit: TouchHeaven)
Reverence and Devotion
Looking at nearly uninhabitable countryside surrounding the Palace made truly appreciate the feat of building such a spectacular structure. The feelings of reverence and devotion permeated the simple rooms on the inside. Monks in their simple garb, twirling beads or prayer wheels, were oblivious to the visitors of which there were few.
Prayer wheels:
1649939508 eb3cd75ee4 Potala Palace   Tibet
(image credit: Jason Zhou)
Accessible today, the Potala, palace of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, Tibet is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the “New Seven Wonders” by USA Today. Built in 637, Potala has been destroyed and rebuilt over the years. The current structure covers about 32 acres and was built between 1645 and 1694. It was only slightly damaged in 1959 during the Tibetan uprising against the invading Chinese.
A fragment of ancient art, showing how Potala and the Palace looked in the 7th century:
1649399200 8215dfad0d Potala Palace   Tibet
Although most religious structures were damaged, it is reputed to have been spared by the personal intervention of Chou En-Lai. It served as home for the Tibetan Dalai Lama until the current 14th Dalai Lama fled in 1959.
1649059570 280315692f Potala Palace   Tibet
1648995996 5f1ac98a48 Potala Palace   Tibet
(images credit: Vladimir Pavlov)
1650031930 ecb66dbf88 Potala Palace   Tibet
(image credit: Alex Qian)
Magnificent monument, existing in a harsh environment
The building makes up the living quarters, office and seminary in the “White Palace.” The “Red Palace”, added in 1690 is completely devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer.
Gated entry into the White Palace:
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Western Hall of the Red Palace:
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The roofs of the Red Palace are covered with gold:
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There are many halls, chapels and shrines filled with statues and works of art. One of the largest contains the body of the 5th Dalai Lama and is coated by 8,200 pounds of solid gold and studded with semi-precious jewels.
1648529955 e4ded9b21b Potala Palace   Tibet
Truly, this is a magnificent monument, existing in a harsh and foreboding environment. Visiting Potala is an experience no traveler could ever forget (and may have trouble completely remembering).
Fascinating structure on top of Sera Monastery:
1648685683 e1ff1cd105 o Potala Palace   Tibet
(image credit: Nikolai Dudko)
Mystery Abbey
Speaking about Chinese monasteries, we’d love to identify this impressive structure. Any ideas?
327963878 2cb02760cd Potala Palace   Tibet

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