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the Central City




Po ta la. The most famous building in Tibet and one of the great achievements of Tibetan architecture. Located in the Tibetan capital of LHA SA, it served as the winter residence of the DALAI LAMAs and seat of the Tibetan government from the seventeenth century until the fourteenth Dalai Lama's flight into exile in 1959. It takes its name from Mount POTALAKA, the abode of AVALOKITEsVARA, the bodhisattva of compassion, of whom the three Tibetan dharma kings (chos rgyal) and the Dalai Lamas are said to be human incarnations. The full name of the Potala is "Palace of Potala Peak" (Rtse po ta la'i pho brang), and it is commonly referred to by Tibetans simply as the Red Palace (Pho brang dmar po), because the edifice is located on Mar po ri (Red Hill) on the northwestern edge of Lha sa and because of the red palace at the summit of the white structure. In the early seventh century, the Tibetan king SRONG BTSAN SGAM PO is said to have meditated in a cave located on the hill; the cave is preserved within the present structure. The earliest structure to have been constructed there was an elevenstoried palace that he had built in 637 when he moved his capital to Lha sa. In 1645, three years after his installation as temporal ruler of Tibet, the fifth Dalai Lama NGAG DBANG BLO BZANG RGYA MTSHO began renovations of what remained of this original structure, with the new structure serving as his own residence, as well as the site of his government (known as the DGA' LDAN PHO BRANG), which he moved from the DGE LUGS PA monastery of 'BRAS SPUNGS, located some five miles outside the city. The exterior of the White Palace (Pho brang dkar po), which includes the apartments of the Dalai Lama, was completed in 1648 and the Dalai Lama took up residence in 1649. The portion of the Po ta la known as the Red Palace was added by the regent SANGS RGYAS RGYA MTSHO in honor of the fifth Dalai Lama after his death in 1682. Fearing that the project would cease if news of his death became known, Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho was able successfully to conceal the Dalai Lama's death for some twelve years (making use of a double who physically resembled the Dalai Lama to meet foreign dignitaries) until construction could be completed in 1694. The current structure is thirteen stories (approximately 384 feet) tall and is said to have over a thousand rooms, including the private apartments of the Dalai Lama, reception and assembly halls, temples, chapels containing the stupas of the fifth and seventh through thirteenth Dalai Lamas, the Rnam rgyal monastery that performed state rituals, and government offices. From the time of the eighth Dalai Lama, the Po ta la served as the winter residence for the Dalai Lamas, who moved each summer to the smaller NOR BU GLING KHA. The first Europeans to see the Po ta la were likely the Jesuit missionaries Albert Dorville and Johannes Grueber, who visited Lha sa in 1661 and made sketches of the palace, which was still under construction at the time. During the Tibetan uprising against the People's Liberation Army in March 1959, the Po ta la was shelled by Chinese artillery. It is said to have survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution through the intervention of the Chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai, although many of its texts and works of art were looted or destroyed. In old Lha sa, the Po ta la stood outside the central city, with the small village of Zhol located at its foot. This was the site of a prison, a printing house, and residences of some of the lovers of the sixth Dalai Lama. In modern Lha sa, the Po ta la is now encompassed by the city, and much of Zhol has been destroyed. The Po ta la still forms the northern boundary of the large circumambulation route around Lha sa, called the gling bskor (ling khor). Since the Chinese opened Tibet to foreign access in the 1980s, the Po ta la has been visited by millions of Tibetan pilgrims and foreign tourists. The stress of tourist traffic has required frequent restoration projects. In 1994, the Po ta la was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. See also PUTUOSHAN.

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1:Individual behavior, they note in Prolegomena to the Construction of the Central City (significantly, the first neohuman work not to have a named author), was to become ‘as predictable as the functioning of a refrigerator.’ Indeed, while writing down their instructions, they acknowledged as a main source of stylistic inspiration, indeed more than any other human literary production, ‘the manual for electrical appliances of medium size and complexity, in particular the video player JVC HR-DV3S/MS. ~ Michel Houellebecq,



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