The Potala Palace, located in Lhasa, Tibet, was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after a failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace is a state museum of China. It is now a popular tourist attraction and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The site was used as a meditation retreat by King Songtsen Gampo, who in 637 built the first palace there, which was incorporated into later buildings. The construction of the present palace began in 1645 under the fifth Dalai Lama Lozang Gyatso. In 1648, the Potrang Karpo (White Palace) was completed, and the Potala was used as a winter palace by the Dalai Lama from that time. The Potrang Marpo (Red Palace) was added between 1690 and 1694. Mount Putuo, the mythological abode of Bodhisattva Chenrezig (Avilokiteshvara / Kuan Yin), probably derives from the name Potala.
Built at an altitude of 3,700 m, on the side of Marpo Ri hill, the Red Mountain in the center of Lhasa Valley, Potala Palace, with its vast inward-sloping walls broken only in the upper parts by straight rows of many windows, and its flat roofs at various levels, is not unlike a fortress in appearance. At the south base of the rock is a large space enclosed by walls and gates, with great porticos on the inner side. A series of tolerably easy staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leads to the summit of the rock. The whole width of this is occupied by the palace.
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