History of Potala Palace

The Potala Palace was built in the seventh century and it has already had a long history of over 1300 years. In 641, Songtsan Gambo, ruler of the Tubo Kingdom, had the Potala Palace built for Wen Chen Konjo (Princess Wencheng) of the Tang Dynasty, whom he was soon to marry. This structure was later burned to the ground during a war (The hall for worshiping bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and the statues of Songtsan Gambo and Wencheng Konjo now displaying are said being the survivors of the war) and was rebuilt in the 17th century by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Repeated repairs and expansions until 1645 finally brought the palace to its present scale. Over the past three centuries, the palace gradually became a place where the Dalai Lamas live and work and a place for keeping the remains of successive Dalai Lama.

The Potala Palace has always been the political center of Tibet since the fifth Dalai Lama (1645-1693). In 1645, the Fifth Dalai Lama, feeling confined at Drepung Monastery, ordered the construction of a new structure that would accommodate his new role as both a religious and political leader. The Potala Palace was then built as the imposing and self-confident expression of the new theocracy. After the ascension of the Seventh Dalai Lama (1728-1757), who established a summer palace at the Norbulingka, the Potala Palace was used predominantly during winter, then it comes its other name “Winter Palace.”

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