China plans to build a miniature replica of the Potala Palace in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in order to protect the fragile structure from a swelling tide of visitors, state media said Wednesday.
Work on the mini Potala is expected to start later this year and the new site will be next to the original wood and earth structure that used to be home to Tibet's exiled ruler, the Dalai Lama, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The agency quoted Qin Yizhi, the Communist Party chief of Lhasa, as saying that the Potala Palace, which dates back more than 1,300 years, couldn't take the huge influx of visitors that have come since a railway linking Lhasa to the rest of China opened last year. It didn't say what sort of damage the palace has suffered.
Some of the cultural relics from the original palace may be moved to the smaller site, Qin told Xinhua. The report did not say how large the replica would be or give other specifics.
During last year's peak tourist season the Potala received as many as 6,000 tourists a day compared to the previous year when the daily average was 1,400 visitors, Xinhua said.
About 2.45 million visitors arrived in Tibet last year, up 40 percent from 2005, with more than 90 percent domestic travelers, Xinhua said.