The Norbu Lingka, the summer and autumn retreat for the Dalai Lama, hence the name “Dalai Summer Palace”.
Norbu Lingka means “treasure garden” in tibetan. Located about one kilometer west of the Potala Palace, it used to be covered by marshland.
In the mid-18th century, the 7th Dalai Lama, who was suffering from leg problems, often went for a dip in the fountain. The Qing Dynasty High Commissioner in Tibet ordered tents to be erected in the fountain area so that the 7th Dalai Lama could rest and recite sutras. This was the origin of the Norbu Lingka. In 1755, the 7th Dalai Lama had the Galsang Phodrang Palace built in the area. During the period of the 8th Dalai Lama, the Cogyi Phodrang Palace (Lake Center Palace) and areas for Buddhist teaching and recitation were also constructed. The Gyianse Phodrang Palace, Galsang Degyi Palace and Qimei Qoigyi Palace were built in the western part of the garden during the time of the 13th Dalai Lama, and the Daain Myingquelin (Eternally Unchanging Palace) was added at the time of the 14th Dalai Lama.
As a result of all these efforts, the Norbu Lingka is today a large garden containing palaces in various traditions, villas, pavilions, waterside pavilions, lawns dotted with flowers, fruit trees and gushing fountains. It is now a park and museum open to the general public, and celebrations are held there during festivals and holidays.
With an area of 360,000 square meters, Norbu Lingka is the largest artificial park possessing the best scenery and the most relics in Tibet. It is a very traditional architecture except for its interior modern facilities. In the palace there are many splendid murals painted by a Fourteenth Dalai Lama's painter. The topics of the murals include Tibetan officials, Sakyamuni preaching under a Bodhi tree, and Tibetan history from its founding by the Holy Monkey, the vicissitudes of Tubo Kingdom (633-844) and Tibetan Buddhism to Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama's interviews with Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. The present Dalai Lama's private apartment is also on view, remaining untouched. In a little sutra hall, there is a Dalai Lama's throne which is wrapped in gold foils and decorated with gems.