Potala Palace in Tibet reopens as epidemic measures are eased
People's Daily


Photo taken on March 15, 2020 shows the Potala Palace in Lhasa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)

LHASA, June 3 (Xinhua) -- The Potala Palace in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region reopened to the public on Wednesday after being closed for more than four months due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Situated in the regional capital of Lhasa, the palace will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and visitors must make reservations, either online or at the entrance, one day in advance. No more than 2,100 daily visits will be allowed, according to the site's administration.

The Potala Palace is a model of ancient architecture and home to over 100,000 cultural relics. It was built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century and expanded in the 17th century by the fifth Dalai Lama.

Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas, also reopened on Wednesday.

Located on the western outskirts of Lhasa, Norbulingka was built in the mid-18th century. It was the place where the Dalai Lamas practiced religious activities and spent their holidays.

Visitors to the palaces should wear face masks, carry their identity cards and present QR codes proving their health condition -- measures for prevention and control of the epidemic.

Among the visitors was one woman, surnamed Yang, who had driven to Lhasa from neighbouring Sichuan Province, along with her family. Now busy taking photos at the Norbulingka, Yang said they were fortunate to find the two historic sites open.

"We are impressed by the strong cultural atmosphere here, with the relics well protected," said Yang, adding that they had reserved to visit the Potala Palace on Thursday.

According to the regional bureau of cultural heritage, the two palaces, both included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, received 2.51 million tourists in total last year, up 16 percent compared with 2018.

Tibet suspended access to all tourist sites from Jan. 27 due to the novel coronavirus epidemic.

To date, all tourist sites in the region have resumed operations, except the Jokhang Temple, another site on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The temple is currently undergoing improvements to its facilities for security, firefighting, power and the protection of relics.