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Guarding Tibetan Heritage
Special> Guarding Tibetan Heritage
UPDATED: August 27, 2007 NO.35 AUG.30
Protecting the Palace
Restoration work on Tibet's Potala Palace is a constant battle against fire, theft, the weather and insects

As the Palace is hundreds of years old, its maintenance is a constant burden. According to Galsang, the renovation team invited Zhang Zhiping and Yan Hua, senior engineers with the China State Cultural Relics Research Institute and the State Center for the Protection of Cultural Relics, to conduct an on-the-spot survey in the palace for 20 days so that they could make suggestions on its preservation.

The first large-scale repair conducted at the palace was between 1989 and 1994. It cost some 55 million yuan and reinforced the major part of the palace, but the architectural complex of some 2,000 halls calls for regular ongoing maintenance. The renovation team faces a constant battle against deformation and collapse of the walls, and insect infestation of the wooden structure.

Without changing the original nature of the cultural relics, efforts have been made to reinforce them, such as adding reinforced bars in the walls and hidden iron hooks in wooden beams.

In accordance with suggestions from the experts, carpenters, painters, stonemasons and tailors were brought in to work on a dozen repair projects, and to make 500-square-meter sutra cabinets and around 200 boxes for cultural relics.

"Whitewashing the walls, extending 100 meters or more from top to the ground, calls for more than 50 tons of limestone and red powder," said Galsang.

The second major renovation of the palace started in June 2002, and was budgeted at 180 million yuan. It aimed to preserve the entire structure of the Potala Palace to ensure its firmness and security, according to Galsang.

According to Xu Fei, Deputy Director General of the Tibet Culture Relics Bureau, the second-phase repair of the palace is progressing well and will be finished within the year.

Protection measures have been accelerated at the palace since the launch of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway on July 1, 2006, but visitors remain intentionally limited. The number of tourists allowed to visit it is capped at 2,300 per day to lighten pressure on the ancient wood palace.

"The restriction of visitors proves our commitment to the protection of the Potala Palace," said Galsang. "We can't fully satisfy the needs of all tourists, but we have no other way around it."

Potala Facts

Originally built by King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century, the Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill of Lhasa, Tibet. Destroyed by lightning and war, the palace was rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1645. Since then, it has been the seat of Dalai Lamas and also the political center of Tibet. The 13th Dalai Lama extended it to the present size, 117 meters (384 ft) in height and 360 meters (1,180 ft) in width, covering an area of more than 130,000 square meters. The Potala Palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated construction, devotional atmosphere and splendid artwork.

The Potala Palace consists of two sections: the Red Palace in the center, used for religious functions and the White Palace on both sides, used as the living quarters of the Dalai Lama.

In December 1994, the Potala Palace of Lhasa was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.



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