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Attractions >> Tibet >> Lhasa Attractions

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet. It lies at the center of the old Lhasa. Built in 647 by Songtsen Gampo and his two foreign wives, it has a history of more than 1,300. It was said that Nepal Princess Tritsun decided to build a temple to house the Jowo Sakyamuni aged 12 brought by Chinese Princess Wencheng. Princess Wencheng reckoned according to Chinese astrology that the temple should be built on the pool where the Jokhang now locates. She contended that the pool was a witch's heart, so the temple should be built on the pool to get rid of evils. The pool still exists under the temple. Then goats were used as the main pack animals, as is the reason the city is called Lhasa. The construction took 12 months. However it was originally small and had been expanded to today's scale in later dynasties. When the Fifth Dalai Lama took reign, large-scale reconstruction and renovation had been done. The temple is a combination of Han, Tibetan and Nepalese architectural techniques. Visitors will see sphinx and other weird and sacred sculptures.

Above the main entrance to the Jokhang is a golden, eight-spoked Dharma Wheel, flanked by two deer. The spokes of the wheel represent the Eight-fold Path (to enlightenment) and the deer serve as a reminder that Buddha gave his first sermon in a deer park. On any given day, one will be awed by the dozens of pilgrims bodily prostrating themselves before this entrance.

The walls of the first courtyard are lined with hundreds of votive lamps. This is the flickering doorway leading into one of Tibet's most intensely religious atmospheres. The first floor houses a series of chapels, each dedicated to a different deity, monk or king. Behind the numerous sculptures, the chapel walls are covered in vivid murals depicting relevant sutra and historical narratives. A circuitous path between the labyrinthine chapels eventually leads you to the inner sanctum, used daily for worship. At its centre, behind rows of cushions, stand larger than life size statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Outside, above the temple's third story rooftops, are an agglomeration of pavilions, comprised of craftsmen's workshops and monks' living quarters. Here, you will glimpse monks debating in one of the numerous back courtyards or perceive their studying forms through the thin curtains of their quarters. Otherwise, looking out, you will enjoy spectacular views across the Barkhor, the pilgrimage route encircling the Jokhang Temple, and across the roofs of Lhasa towards the Potala Palace.

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