Visitors to Potala Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, will no longer have access to its golden roofs when the ongoing renovation project is completed next year.
The ban will better preserve the structure, experts said.
"We want to pass on the Potala Palace as it is to future generations," said Qamba Gesang, director of the Potala Palace Administration. "It doesn't mean the buildings are crumbling — far from it."
The seven golden roofs on the top of the stunning red-and-white palace against Tibet's eternal blue sky are a must-see for world travelers.
The 100-square-meter platform atop the palace was always crowded with tourists, posing a threat to the centuries-old buildings.
"It's quite reasonable to exercise the ban," said Legxe, a 65-year-old monk at Potala Palace. "After all, the rebuilt palace is more than 350 years old. It needs more care, just like an old man."
Dawa Baizhoin, a worker from Shannan Prefecture working on the roofs of the palace, said: "The renovation project has reinforced the Potala Palace. It's a pity indeed that visitors won't be able to mount the roofs any more, but I think this is good for the palace long-term."
The Potala Palace Administration has limited the number of visitors and pilgrims to the palace to 1,600 a day since May 1, 2003. But still, the number of visitors reached a record 443,000 between January and October this year.
"Even with the golden roofs and a few ramshackle halls closed, visitors still have a lot to see at the Potala Palace," Qamba said.
The palace presently opens 22 halls to visitors, the oldest of which is more than 1,300 years old. The palace administration also plans to build a showroom down the hill in the near future for the convenience of the elderly and handicapped visitors.
"The Potala Palace is one of the most appealing tourist destinations in China, with the unparalleled sight of its golden roofs against the blue sky and snow-covered mountains," said Jesus Sobrino, a tourist from Spain. "We can only enjoy the sight at a distance in the future, but I think people will all understand and respect the Chinese government's efforts to preserve traditional Tibetan culture."
The Potala Palace, located in the northwestern corner of Lhasa, was first built by Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the 7th century. It was expanded during the 17th century.