Beyond the Book
The Norbulingka and Potala Palaces
Until he was forced into exile in 1959, the Dalai Lama lived and studied in two magnificent palaces in Lhasa that housed the historical and religious treasures of his nation.
The buildings and gardens of the Norbulingka (the Summer Palace) cover over 89 acres and were at the heart of the 1959 uprising described in Talty's book. Thousands of Tibetans gathered there and risked their lives to protect the Dalai Lama from the PLA (People's Liberation Army) whom they feared would abduct or kill him. "They believed if he was captured, the dharma would be irreparably harmed. Death was a small price to pay if they stopped that from happening," reports Talty in The Huffington Post
. The eighteenth century palace of 374 rooms was severely damaged during the fighting and, in 2003, was rebuilt by the Chinese who removed the large open spaces protesters occupied in 1959 to prevent future riots.
The thirteen-story, thousand room Potala Palace, built in 637 AD by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, is now a museum. The "White Palace" structure within the Potala was once the winter residence of the Dalai Lama, while the "Red Palace" contains chapels and shrines dedicated to His Holiness. The Potala contains tombs (stupas
) of previous Dalai Lamas, libraries, great halls, and Buddhist art. Today, the Chinese have transformed the Potala into a tourist spot, complete with a gift shop selling beer and dried yak meat.
Once forced from Tibet, the Dalai Lama established a government-in-exile in his new home, Dharamsala, India. To learn more about this transition and the people of Tibet, I suggest a visit to www.tibet.net
or, if you are interested in the Dalai Lama's life and current activities, go to www.dalailama.com
To support efforts toward a free Tibet, please refer to www.freetibet.org
Images: Top & middle: The Norbulingka; Bottom: Potala Palace
This article is from the February 16, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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