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Facelift of Potala Palace Plaza to Start Next March

A facelift of the Potala Palace square in western China's Tibet Autonomous Region will start next March, said Chen Xianshun, an official in charge for the renovation.

To make way for the facelift, three major buildings, including a local water plant and a song and dance troupe headquarters, will be dismantled. Currently, 40 percent of the relocation has been completed, said Chen Xianshun.

Chen said he believed the entire relocation would be finished in late December. According to him, infrastructure such as roads, water facilities and power supplies will be upgraded, along with the creation of a pond and more greenery.

Chen said they received five sets of designs done by five different firms and were soliciting opinions from the general public.

"Our principle is to highlight grandeur of the Potala Palace and retain characteristics of Tibetan people by creating fewer complicated decorations," said Chen.

The selection of the best design will be made next February, Chen said. Afterwards, bids for building contract will begin.

The facelift will be undertaken in two stages. For the first-phase renovation, the budget is set at 150 million yuan (about US$18.1 million).

Standing on the Moburi (Red) Mountain, in the northern part of Lhasa, the imposing and dignified Potala Palace is the gem of Tibetan architecture and a treasure house of paintings and religious art.

Built of wood and stone, the Potala Palace was constructed layer by layer against a hilly backdrop gradually rising along with elevation of the land. The whole structure is divided into two major parts called the Red Palace and the White Palace. The Red Palace, in the center, contains the tomb stupas of generations of Dalai Lamas and various prayer halls. The White Palace comprises two wings and is the place where the Dalai Lama lives, works and conducts political and religious activities. The East Audience Hall and two Sunlight Halls (the East and West) are main buildings in the White Hall.

The Potala Palace was first built by the Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), but it was later destroyed in wars and natural disasters.

The Potala Palace visitors now see was rebuilt in the mid-1600s by the Dalai Lama, who ruled Tibet from the 13-story building on the Red Hill 3,600 meters above sea level.

The Potala Palace was included in the list of world cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.

(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2004)

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