Lhasa is planning to build a replica of Potala Palace aided with high-tech sound and light system to divert the heavy tourist influx to the Tibetan landmark. The miniature is expected to show a "vivid and almost real" Potala Palace to visitors, Qin Yizhi, the Communist Party chief of Lhasa said, Wednesday.
The mini-palace will be housed in a treasure exhibition hall at the foot of Red Hill, where the real Potala Palace is located, said Qin, without elaborating on the exact size of the replica.
"We are working on a plan for the project and it is predicted to be launched in the second half of this year," Qin said, adding the regional government is considering moving some cultural relics into the new building from the Potala Palace.
Previously the residence of Dalai Lamas, the Potala Palace is the top tourist attraction in Tibet. It used to receive 1,400 tourists every day before the Qinghai-Tibet Railway went into operation in July 2006. As many as 6,000 tourists flocked to the site in peak season in the latter half of 2006.
Local tourism officials expect to host three to four million this year. Qin also said that the government was considering developing an e-booking system for the visitors to the palace so that they don't spend a long time to get the tickets.
Located in the northwestern corner of Lhasa, the Potala Palace was first built by the Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the seventh century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Dalai Lama extended it during the 17th century.
The 13-story palace features the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art and was included into the list of world cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.
The Chinese government spent 55 million yuan (6.6 million U.S. dollars) repairing the palace between 1989 and 1994. The second phase of five-year repair work, involving 180 million yuan (22 million dollars), started in 2002.