Wanted to go to 哲蚌寺 but unfortunately, it was blocked off by unarmed Armed Police. They were from other provinces and haven’t even visited the city yet. They were under the jurisdictions of the local cops. I did manage to go into the Potala Palace in the morning though. I think the Tibetans take religion more seriously and in a more integral manner than anyone else I’ve seen. Everyone shows respect for religions sites and from prayer wheels to mumbled sacred scripts, that respect is well built into their daily lives.
The Potala temple is an impressive compound that started as a welcoming site for the incoming Han princess 文成 who brought along a statue of the first Buddha represented during his 12th year of age. Atop the palace, the princess threw her ring to decide the site to house the statue and it landed in a lake. Then, the entire lake was filled to construct the temple 大昭寺 which is still the holiest of temples in Tibet and the destination of most pilgrims. The fifth Dalai Lama, one of the most meriteous Dalai Lama, enlarged it mostly to its current size as the seat of power. His merit is reflected in the size of his 灵塔 (a tower tomb) which is constructed with many tons of solid gold. The Potala temple itself and all its contents is truly a testament of the power of the ruling classes of feudal Tibet. The palace itself is built with rocks and wood, both of which don’t originate from Lhasa. As the terrain is too inhospitable for working animals, all the large timbers used as structural members and rocks were moved by slaves from far cities. It is unfortunate that today, the palace holds a strong ownership over photographs and pictures are not allowed inside the palace.
The bottom of the palace is a Zhol village for the palace’s serfs. I’ve visited the jail and seen the actual sheets of human skins whose pictures have been floating around the web. The interior of the palace itself glows with luxury. The tomb of every Dalai Lama is housed inside the palace and every Buddhist artifacts is said to be worth more than entire cities let alone towers of Dalai Lamas that are weighed in tons with gold. Even the 13th Dalai Lama, whose power was stripped by the late Qing dynasty, received a glorious crypt for having repented for inviting foreign English influence into Tibet during its years of independence. His tomb is so filled with gold and jewels that it’s the only area in the palace that is off limits to visitors.
The night scene of the palace is no less glorious than during the day. Searchlight beams light up the entire palace. During my day of visit, I’ve been hearing more rumours of money involved in the March 14th incident. That 100¥ was given to everyone who’s willing to cause troubles.