A Palace Without Its Dalai Lama

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Nearly half a century has passed since then 24-year-old Tenzin Gyatso, revered by Tibetan Buddhists as the14th Dalai Lama, fled the Potala ("High Heavenly Realm") Palace in Lhasa ahead of troops from Mao's Red Army advancing on Tibet's capital. Now 72 and still living in exile, he may never get to live again in the magnificent 13-story, 1,000-room complex built in the17th century over structures dating back to the seventh century. Besides serving as the residence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, the palace also was the center of his government. It remains a spiritual and cultural treasury containing the stupa tombs of eight previous Dalai Lamas, religious statues, historical murals, and other priceless relics. In response to international concern about preserving this UNESCO World Heritage Site, authorities limit the number of pilgrims and tourists to 2,500 a day.