Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was long known as the “Forbidden City”.
Not only is it sealed off from the world by the towering Himalaya Mountains, but it was closed by law to foreigners until 1890. This was because Lhasa was the sacred city of Tibetan Buddhists, and it was the home of their leader, the Dalai Lama.
Lhasa is located on a plain surrounded by hills at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet, higher than most mountain peaks in the rest of the world! Higher still is Lhasa’s most noted structure, the Potala, or “Palace of the Gods.”
Construction of the Potala, the palace of the Dalai Lama, began in the 8th century, although much of the present structure was built in the 17th century. It has also served as the seat of government in Tibet and as a school and a Buddhist monastery.
The Potala is built on a hillside overlooking Lhasa. Tremendous zigzag stairways rise up the hill to the palace. The huge structure is about 1,000 feet long, and it rises nine stories above its foundation. The Potala has more than 500 rooms and some 1,400 windows. Part of it is roofed with glittering gold!
In 1959, China invaded Tibet and made that region a part of China. The Dalai Lama left Lhasa and now resides in India.