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Discover China: Whitewashing the Potala Palace in Tibet

2020-11-02 17:17:00Xinhua

Norbu, 51, woke up in the early hours of Wednesday to journey to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

He and several other villagers from Nyethang, a township in Chushur County about 67 km from Lhasa, are participating in the annual whitewash of the 1,300-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, which is expected to take about three days to finish.

Every year, hundreds of local residents and volunteers are organized by the palace staff to join the facelift of the historical heritage ahead of the day of "Lhabab Duchen."

"Lhabab Duchen" is believed to be the day Buddha descended from the heavens and is one of the four annual festivals celebrating important events in his life.

"Before the day of Lhabab Duchen, temples and civil residences in Tibet must be repainted to show respect for Buddha and pray for good fortune, " said Norbu.

Norbu is responsible for delivering the paint to professional staff from the maintenance department of the palace.

The administration office has prepared 100 tonnes of lime and 50 tonnes of red clay to paint the palace, which has a floor area of about 130,000 square meters.

The walls of the palace have four different colors: red, yellow, white and black. The red symbolizes authority, yellow prosperity, white peace, and black exorcism.

The whitewash for the palace is different from that for ordinary houses. It is made with a traditional formula of milk, honey, sugar and bone glue, in addition to lime.

"These ingredients are added to enhance the viscosity of the paints so it will not easily peel off," said Gongkar Tashi, deputy director of the administration office of the palace.

"To protect this ancient building, it is essential to do the facelift after the rainy season and before winter every year," Gongkar Tashi added.

Many Buddhists used to bring milk, sugar and other materials for the whitewashing. However, for the sake of ensuring quality and avoiding waste, the palace has declined donations from worshippers since 2017, according to Gongkar Tashi.

"I have participated in the painting many times," said Norbu. "I used to bring with me milk and sugar. Since I came empty-handed this year, I want to work harder."

The Potala Palace was built by Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the seventh century and expanded in the 17th century by the Dalai Lama. The palace was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tibet.  

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