Norbulingka was built in 1755 and became the place where the successors of the seventh Dalai Lama dealt with affairs, held celebrations, spent the hot summer, rested and conducted religious activities. Norbulingka is the largest man-made garden in Tibet. The garden covers an area of 46 acres (19 hectares) and the palace has 374 rooms of different sizes. In the garden visitors can worship Buddha, relax and study the Tibetan-style palaces.
It is Tibet’s Summer Palace, and it means “Jeweled Park” in Tibetan language. In mid-March every year, the Dalai Lama would move there from the Potala Palace, and stay until the end of October, when he would return to the Potala Palace. So, Norbulingka is called the Summer Palace and the Potala Palace the Winter Palace.
At Norbulingka, visitors can watch the production process of Thangka. Also called "Tangka", Thangka is a unique kind of Tibetan scroll painting with silk embroidery. Thangkas depict all aspects of Tibet, including religion, history, politics, culture and social life.
Norbulingka is an important celebration place of Shoton Festival (watch video), a grand traditional festival in Tibet. After watching the ceremony of "Sunning the Buddha" at Drepung Monastery, people would come to Norbulingka to continue their festival celebration. Various activities are held there, such as shooting, archery, singing and dancing. People also gather on the open ground to have picnics and drink yogurt.
During the festival, besides Tibetan yogurt, another favorite of the Tibetan people is Tibetan Opera. Performances of Tibetan Opera go on from morning till dawn for about a week, and these are the best ones in the whole Tibet. Tibetan Opera is called Ace Lhamo in Tibetan language, and is regarded as “the living fossil of traditional Tibetan culture”.