NorbuLingka is named the Summer Palace, located west of Lhasa. The beautiful garden was first built in the middle of the 1800’swhere officials would deal with affairs and hold religious activities.
The garden covers an area of 46 acres (360,000 square meters), with 370 rooms of different sizes. In the garden, people worship Buddha, enjoy their holiday, and study the Tibetan-style palaces within.
The complex is made up of Galsang Phodrang Palace, Gyianse Phodrang Palace, and Daain Myingquelin Phodrang Palace. Each palace is divided into 3 sections: palace, the front section, and the garden. In the garden, there are altogether 370 rooms dotted with pavilions, waterside pavilions, hills, and lawns. In summer, various flowers, grasses, and trees were planted around. Now it has become an open garden in Tibet.
Galsang Phodrang Palace was a winter palace built by the Qing Dynasty High Commissioner for the 7th Dalai Lama in the early 17th century. Phodrang means "palace", and the 7th Dalai Lama named it after himself. Since the palace was built, it has become the place where Dalais under 18 years old learn the Tibetan language and sutras from the masters and where they are initiated into monkhood. After they come into power, they will still recite sutras, study history, read scriptures, appoint officials, and discuss government affairs.
Gyianse Phodrang Palace and Gyianse Lingkas were built during the time of the 13th Dalai Lama. In Gyianse Phodrang Palace, there is a hall of worship, Kanpu House, storehouse, and more. Also inside are many splendid murals with a full view of Mount Wanshou and Mount Wutai, with some bearing strong Han characteristics with symbol of "blessing, wealth, longevity, and happiness".
Daain Myingquelin Phodrang Palace (Eternally Unchanging Palace), also called New Summer Palace, was the second palace added here in 1956 for the 14th Dalai Lama. It was completed in 1956 with an area of 1,080 square meters. It not only has features of religion and monastery but also those of a splendid palace and sumptuous villa.
Setting feet on the steps of the New Palace, visitors can see a pair of tiger whips hung on the 2 sides of the gate, a symbol of power. It also shows that nobody is allowed in without permission. This pair of whips is 1 meter long. It is said that the whip was first used by the palace vanguards. Later, every time the Dalai went on an inspection tour, a special guard would hold the whip in front to drive away the walkers. Inside the red-painted gate, you will see huge pictures of a lion and a tiger on both sides, showing the dignity of the government head's house. In the middle of the New Palace is the Dalai's throne decorated with gold and gemstones.
The murals in the New Palace are especially attractive. Topics include Tibetan history, the biographies of the Tubo Kingdoms, Dalai Lamas, and the entire story of Songtsen Gampo sending his minister Dongzan of the Tang Dynasty to seek a marriage alliance. Another story described vividly in the murals is that of Songtsen Chitsong serving a banquet to claim his uncle, which settled the problem of who was the heir's mother. The vivid description tells how the little king claimed the envoy from the Tang Dynasty (618–907) as his uncle without hesitation.
One more story is: in 1652, the 5th Dalai went to Beijing to have an audience with the Shunzhi Emperor and was conferred as Dalai Lama and granted golden volumes and golden seals. The final murals describe the 14th Dalai's attending the National People's Congress in Beijing in 1954 by way of the then-open Kang-Zang Highway, and his visits all over the country; all his gifts presented from the Central Government are displayed here.
The constructions, murals, and decorations in NorbuLingka are the quintessence of the Tibetan temples and palaces.