In addition to the majestic and mysterious Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Tashilhunpo Monastery, there is also the unique Norbulingka on the snowy plateau. The function of Norbulingka is similar to that of Yuanmingyuan, the Summer Palace and the Chengde Mountain Resort in Beijing of the Qing Dynasty.
Norbulingka Palace is situated in the west of Lhasa, a short distance to the southwest of Potala Palace. Norbulingka covers an area of around 36 hectares (89 acres) and considered to be the largest man-made garden in Tibet.
With 374 rooms, the main parts of the entire Norbulingka complex are Kelsang Phodrong, Golden Linka, and Takten Migyur Phodrong. Walking into the flower garden, the plants are so luxuriant that the buildings seem to be covered by the tall trees. Walking along the flagstone path, you can enjoy the tranquility around you, which is really hard to see in Tibet, especially at such a high altitude area.
Norbulingka was the summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until 1959. When the summer is hot, the Dalai Lamas come here to spend the summer, attend to local government affairs and carry out religious activities. Therefore, it is commonly known as the Summer Palace in Lhasa, which means "Treasure Park" in Tibetan. Norbulingka palace has been mostly identified with the 13th and the 14th Dalai Lamas who commissioned most of the structures seen here now. However, a number of buildings were damaged in 1950. Norbulingka is a key cultural relic protection site in China and was listed as a world cultural heritage in 2001. It was rebuilt beginning in 2003, when the Chinese government initiated renovation works here to restore some of the damaged structures, and also the greenery, the flower gardens, and the lakes.
The Norbulingka palace has been mostly identified with the 13th and the 14th Dalai Lamas who commissioned most of the structures seen here now. During the invasion of Tibet in 1950, a number of buildings were damaged but were rebuilt beginning in 2003, when the Chinese government initiated renovation works here to restore some of the damaged structures, and also the greenery, the flower gardens, and the lakes.
Takten Migyur Phodrong - The Most Elegant Palace
The most important place to visit in Norbulingka is the palace of the 14th Lama, Takten Migyur Phodrong. Completed in 1956, it is also known as the “New Palace”. This palace not only has the architectural characteristics of the temple but also has the artistic style of the palace and villa. It is more magnificent and elegant than other palaces. The exterior is in the style of a double-story Tibetan building, but the interior is equipped with modern facilities. This palace was said to be particularly popular with the 14th Lama after its completion.
The “New Palace” had a gilded roof, called a golden roof. It symbolizes the thoughts and doctrines of Buddhism. Takten Migyur Phodrong is composed of more than 40 rooms, including Buddha Hall, Dharma Hall, Scripture Hall, practice room, reception room, bedroom, and bathroom, etc. Entering the courtyard gate of Takten Migyur Phodrong is like entering a sea of flowers. In the “New Palace”, you can visit the living environment of the 14th Dalai Lama and some places for receiving visitors. And also can savor lifelike murals. The walls of the “New Palace” feature large, comic-book murals on themes including Tibetan history and Buddhist allusions. The most eye-catching picture is "
Tsokyil Phodrong - A Beautiful Place In The Garden
Tsokyil Phodrong (pavilion in the midst of the pond) is the most beautiful place in Norbulingka. The Dalai Lama often meets and feasts with monks and laymen here. Usually, Tsokyil Phodrong refers to the building complex of three square islands in the pond. Lukang (Dragon King Pavilion) is in the northernmost, and Tsokyil Phodrong stands in the center. The two islands were built with pavilions, surrounded by stone railings. Tibetan Buddhist murals were painted inside and outside the pavilions, especially the Bodhisattva Tara（green）painted on the inner wall of the front cornice column, which is vivid and exquisite. A small island on the south side is isolated in the pond. Only some trees are planted on it to keep the natural flavor. "one pond and three islands" layout embodies the combination of Han style and Tibetan culture.
Norbulingka is considered the premier park of all such horticultural parks in similar ethnic settings in Tibet. During the summer and autumn months, the parks in Tibet, including the Norbulingka, become hubs of entertainment with dancing, singing, music and festivities. The park is where the annual Sho Dun or 'Yoghurt Festival' is held.
Sho Dun Festival also spelled Shoton Festival, (popularly known as the "yogurt festival") is an annual festival held at Norbulingka. The date for the festival is set according to the Tibetan calendar, which is a Lunar-based calendar. The festival is celebrated during the seventh month in the first seven days of the Full Moon period, which corresponds to dates in July/August according to the Gregorian calendar. The week-long festivities are marked by eating and drinking, with Ache Lhamo, the Tibetan opera performances as the highlight, held in the park and other venues in the city. On this occasion, yak races are a special attraction held in the Lhasa stadium. During this festival, famed Opera troupes from different regions of Tibet perform at the Norbulingka grounds; the first opera troupe was founded in the 15th century by Tangtong Gyelpo, considered the Leonardo da Vinci of Tibet. Over the centuries other opera formats of the 'White Masked Sect' and the "innovative" 'Black Masked Sect' added to the repertoire, and all these forms and subsequent innovations are enacted at the Sho Dun Festival. The Chinese observe the holidays of the Chinese calendar at the Norbulingka grounds with Tibetan music and dance under Government patronage. Tibetans also observe traditional holidays with Tibetan music and dance at this venue.
During the reign of the Dalai Lamas (from the 7th Dalai Lama onwards), their annual shifting of residence from the Potala Palace to Norbulingka Palace was also an elaborate festive event. The Dalai Lama used to be escorted in a glittering procession to spend 6 months of the summer season in the Norbulingka Palace.
Recommended Tours Including Norbulingka
Visiting Sera Monastery is the highlight of this 5-day private tour. Before watching the brilliant sutra – debate, you can visit the Sera Utsé Hermitage which is located on the top of the back hill of the monastery, where you can have a bird's-eye view of the entire Lhasa city.
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