Norbulingka means Jewel Garden. First built in 1751, it borrowed architectural style from the inland areas of China while maintaining local ethnic and religious features. Norbulingka served as a traditional summer palace and residence starting with the 7th Dalai Lama, and now it is the largest garden in Tibet.
The earliest building is the Gesang Pozhang Palace built by Kelzang Gyatso. The 'New Palace' was begun in 1954 by the present Dalai Lama and completed in 1956. It contains chapels, gardens, fountains and pools. To the west the Kalsang Potang built by Seventh Dalai Lama is 'a beautiful example of Yellow Hat architecture. Its fully restored throne room is also of interest.'
The garden is 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 colourful makeshift windbreaks of rugs and scarves and enjoying the height of summer weather. There is also a zoo at Norbulingka, 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.
Norbulingka is located 3km west of the Potala Palace which was the winter palace. Additional buildings were added to the park during the first half of the 20th century. In 2001, UNESCO inscribed Norbulingka on its World Heritage Site as part of the 'Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace'.