|Potala Palace repairs to complete late 2009|
A 330 million yuan (48 million U.S. dollars) preservation project on the Potala Palace, Norbu Lingka Palace and Sagya Monastery, three of the most important relics in Tibet, are expected to be completed late this year.
It was learnt Thursday at a meeting on protection of cultural relics in Tibet Autonomous Region, southwest China. No exact time for completion of the repair projects was specified at the meeting.
The work, funded by the Chinese central government, began in 2002. The Potala Palace, built in the seventh century, is listed on the world cultural heritage list. Norbu Lingka, which means "treasure park" in the Tibetan language, was the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. Sagya Monastery, about 4,300 meters above the sea level, houses numerous classical books on Buddhism and precious paintings.
Repairs to the ancient buildings and ancient fresco paintings at the three sites has almost been completed, while the fire control, lighting, and water supply and drainage systems are expected to be completed in July or August, according to the regional cultural heritage bureau.
Of the total funds, 240 million yuan is being spent on repairs to the Potala Palace, said Champa Kelsang, chief of the administration for the Palace.
Workers have nearly finished the reinforcement of sleeper walls-- a cylindrical structure used to support floor joists in the foundation of the main buildings of Potala Palace, he said.
The Potala Palace, built on a hill, has an elevation of 3,763 meters. The exact number of sleeper walls in the Palace is unknown.
"We have repaired 491 sleeper walls, most of which were eroded," he said, "Without repairs, these sleeper walls would not support the Palace any more."
The Potala Palace survived the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that jolted Damxung County, 82 km from Lhasa, the regional capital, in October last year.
Renovation to the Potala Palace also included 17 ancient buildings, including the Red Palace and the White Palace. The Red Palace contains the tomb stupas of generations of Dalai Lamas and various prayer halls. The White Palace comprises two wings and is the place where the Dalai Lama lives, works and conducts political and religious activities.
"The funds earmarked by the central government are the fundamental solution to dealing with problems of mud erosion, stone peeling away, and a large area of cracks on sleeper walls," Champa Kelsang said.