* History: Built in the 18th century 40 s
Norbu Lingka means “the Jewelled Park” in Tibetan, and it is a palace and surrounding park located in the western of Lhasa City, about one kilometer (about 0.6 mile) southwest of Potala Palace. Norbu Linka served as the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until the late 1950s.
There are many gardens in Lhasa which in Tibetan are called “lingka”. In the past monks and lay officials used these gardens to avoid the heat of summer, and most were owned by monk officials, lay officials, noble families and the monasteries. The Norbu Lingka, the summer and autumn retreat for the Dalai Lama, is one such garden, hence the name “Dalai Summer Palace.”
The park was built by the Seventh Dalai Lama beginning in 1755, which used to be wasteland with wild animals, weeds and scrub that the Seventh Dalai Lama liked. The Norbu Lingka Park and Summer Palace were completed in 1783 under Jampel Gyatso, the Eight Dalai Lama and became the summer residence during the reign of the Eighth Dalai Lama, where the Dalai Lama led his officials there to conduct government affairs and hold religious activities.
After a series of expansions and renovations, the appearance was improved with potrangs, pavilions, gardens and woods. The garden covers an area of 360,000 square meters (about 430,000 square yards), with 374 rooms inside. It is the biggest man-made garden in Tibet Autonomous Region. It has now been turned into a park open to the public.
Norbulingka consists of several palace complexes, such as the Kelsang Potrang, Tsokyil Potrang, Golden Linka and Takten Migyur Potrang. Each palace complex is divided into three sections - the palace section, the section in front of the palaces and the woods. There are large areas of green woods, grasses, and various flowers adorning the buildings, and yellow tiles and golden roofs add radiance and beauty to the red and white walls.
The garden are a favorite picnic spot and provides a beautiful venue for theatre, dancing and festivals, particularly the Sho Dun or 'Yoghurt Festival', at the beginning of August, with families camping in the grounds for days surrounded by colorful makeshift windbreaks of rugs and scarves and enjoying the height of summer weather. There is also a zoo at Norbu Lingka, originally to keep the animals which were given to the Dalai Lama. Heinrich Harrer helped the 14th Dalai Lama build a small movie theatre there in the 1950s.
Norbu Lingka both reflects the ethnical, religious features of the Tibetan people and embodies the architecture style of inland China. It is of great cultural value and was listed by UNESCO as its World Heritage Site in 2001 as part of the “Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace”.