Norbulingka Summer Palace in Tibet
Norbulingka is located in the western suburbs of Lhasa, Tibet. It is a typical Tibetan-style garden. "Linka" in Tibetan means garden, Norbulingka means treasure garden. It was built in the 1840s (Dalai VII), and the place where the Dalai Lama spent their summers and ran their political affairs. After more than two hundred years of expansion, the entire park covers an area of 360,000 square meters. There are more than 100 species of plants in the garden, with not only the common flowers and trees but also from the foothills of the Himalayas exotic flowers and plants, as well as from the mainland China transplanted or imported from abroad rare flowers. Norbulingka has been called the "Plateau Botanical Garden". It is the largest man-made garden in Tibet, with the best scenery and the most historical sites, and should not be missed during your tour in Tibet.
Historic Evolution of Norbulingka
Norbulingka's construction process lasted more than two hundred years. Before the 1840s, Norbulingka was a wasteland full of wild beasts, weeds, and short willows, where the old course of the Lhasa River passes. When the 7th Dalai Gesang Gyatso was studying Buddhist scriptures at Drepung Monastery, he often came here to spend the summer. Later, because the seventh Dalai Lama liked and often came to this place, then the Minister of the Qing Dynasty in Tibet ordered some tents to be set up near the river for the Dalai Lama to rest and chant sutras. This was the earliest origin of Norbulingka.
Norbulingka has been carefully managed by the Dalai Lama in the past, building various palaces, villas, pavilions, water pavilions, and planting a large number of flowers and trees. It has become a large garden covering an area of 360,000 square meters and turned into a public park and museum for people to visit. Besides, it holds various festivals and holiday activities.
In March 1959, Norbulingka had an event that shocked China and foreign countries and profoundly affected the history of Tibet. That night, a group of people fled from here, ending Norbulingka's story and beginning the transformation from the Summer Palace to people's Park.
What to See in Norbulingka Palace
1. Architecture Features and Style
The architectural features of Norbulingka are: platforms have been built in the high place, pools have been dug at the low place, allowed to take the scenery for granted. There are dense trees in Norbulingka. Among the green bushes, the Huxin Palace, the Dragon King Pavilion, the Golden Linka, and other Tibetan-style buildings are faintly in the middle. The fresh air and tranquil environment make Norbulingka more pure and natural, and a bit more interesting than other places in Tibet.
Norbulingka is composed of several groups of palace buildings such as Gaisang Pochang, Golden Pochang, etc. Each group of buildings is divided into three main parts: the main palace area, outside the palace area, and garden area. And it's built with wood and stone as the main materials, and they are neatly planned and have obvious Tibetan architectural styles. Exquisite murals are painted on the walls in the main hall. The entire Norbulingka is divided into three areas: the east palace front area, the central part of the palace area, the west is characterized by natural jungle and wild forest. Norbulingka’s garden layout not only has the Tibetan Plateau's characteristics, but also draws on the traditional methods of mainland China's gardens, using architecture, mountains and rocks, water surfaces, and forests to create different artistic concepts.
2. Collection of Cultural Relics
The cultural relics of Norbulingka can generally be divided into two categories, one is the religious relics made in Tibet, and the other is the various treasures rewarded and gifted by the central government and emperors to the upper strata of Tibet. Both types have their own advantages, and the craftsmanship is very exquisite.
The most famous religious relics made in Tibet are gold and bronze statues. The gilding on the Buddha statue is thick and the gilded surface has a high finish. Buddha crowns, earrings, arm studs, bracelets, streamers, and other ornaments are all inlaid with turquoise. The Thangka collection is also a highlight in Norbulingka, with a very rare and precious 13th-century Thangka production. You will also find many murals here, vivid pictures, color harmony, with a unique national style. They are a collection of Tibetan painting art. In addition, the governments of the Ming and Qing dynasties and the emperors gave a lot of rewards to the upper class in Tibet. There is a variety of exquisite porcelain, as well as rare ornaments.
3. Shoton Festival in Norbulingka
The Shoton Festival (June 30th in Tibetan calendar, usually in August), also known as the Tibetan Opera Festival, which is one of the most important festivals in Tibetan tradition, and a great add-on to fully enjoy your Tibet tour. Every year at the Shoton Festival, Norbulingka is one of the activity centers of Lhasa, the famous Tibetan opera groups from all over the world flock here. From the first day to the 7th day in July of the Tibetan calendar, Tibetan operas are sung here every day. Within a week, the Tibetan opera performed in Norbulingka will hardly be repeated. It is also the performance with the strongest cast, the most abundant content, and the most powerful team of Tibetan opera performances in Lhasa. You can watch the Tibetan opera from morning to late afternoon.
On the eve of the Shoton Festival, Norbulingka and the surrounding woods turned into a brightly colored "tent city" overnight. These tents were used by Tibetans to build a temporary "home" in Norbulingka with their parents and children. The tent city has also formed several unique and lively festival streets. People seem to have moved the entire Lhasa city into this green world. It can be said that the Shoton Festival is the most energetic time for Lhasa people. They sit around the tent and place the Chang (barley wine), butter tea, Tibetan pastries that they had brought from home. Drinking and talking, playing chess and cards, dancing and singing. After the Tibetan opera began, the crowd formed a circle to appreciate the wonderful performance of the Tibetan opera actors.
Useful travel tips
- The admission fee is CN¥ 60 Per Person.
- The opening hour is from 09:00 am -17:30 pm. And the recommended visiting time is about 2-3 hours.
- The lighting equipment of The New Palace is not in good condition. Travelers who are interested in the murals should bring their own flashlights to enjoy the details of the murals. However, please do not take pictures with flash equipment.
- The flowers and trees in Tibetan areas have a shorter bloom and dense period, summer is the most charming time of the year for Norbulingka. The vivid Shoton festival is also held in summertime.