Jokhang Temple

Prostating Pilgrims in front of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet

The Jokhang temple is one of the most important religious sites in Tibet since its housing the statue from the time when Shakyamuni Buddha lived.

History

Estimated dates for the Jokhang’s founding range from 639 to 647 AD. Construction was initiated by King Songtsen Gampo to house an image of Mikyoba(Akshobhya)brought to Tibet as part of the dowry of his Nepali wife Princess Bhri-kuti.

The Ramoche Temple was constructed at the same time to house another Buddha image, Jowo Sakya-muni(Sakya Thukpa ) brought to Tibet by his Chinese wife Princess Wencheng.

It is thought that after the death of Songtsen Gampo, Jowo Sakyamuni was moved from Ramoche for its protection and hidden in the Jokhang by Princess Wencheng. The image has remained in the Jokhang ever since ( Jokhang, or Jowokhang, means’chapel of the Jowo ), and it is the most revered Buddha image in all of Tibet.

Over the centuries, the Jokhang has undergone many renovations, but the basic layout is ancient and differs from that of many other Tibetan religious structures. One crucial difference is the building’s east-west orientation, said to face towards Nepal to honour Princess Bhrikuti. A few interior carved pillars and entrance arches remain from the original 7th-century work of Newari artisans brought from the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal to work on the construction.

In the early days of the Cultural Revolution, desecrated much of the interior of the Jokhang and it is claimed that a section was utilized as a pigsty. Since 1980 the Jokhang has been restored, and without the aid of an expert eye you will see few signs of the misfortunes that have befallen the temple in recent years.

Visiting Jokhang Temple

The golden roof of the Jokhang Temple

Early in the morning Tibetans can visit the Temple. If you walk near the entrance of the Jokhang, you will see Tibetans lining up in front of it. We recommend visiting it in he afternoon, when it is generally less crowded.

We begin by entering through the main gate and passing by pilgrims prostrating in front of the Temple. When we get to the court yard, you can see  wall murals depicting the history of Buddhism. Depending on day and time, you can see monks chanting there. You can take photos of unobstructed view of the Jokhang.

Once we get inside, we visit some of the most important chapels, including the chapel of

In the back of the Jokhang, the main statue of Jowo Shakyamuni is displayed. Unlike most of the statues of Buddha that portray him as a simple monk (after his enlightenment), the statue in Jokhang depicts the 12-year old Buddha. At that age, he was still a prince and the statue is heavily decorated with gold and precious stones.

When we are done visiting temple, we will go up to the roof of it. From the roof of Jokhang, you can get a splendid view on Lhasa and Potala Palace.

Things to do nearby

Bakhor Street

Walk around the temple with pilgrims, monks and local Tibetans

Temples on Bakhor

Visit small monasteries or temples on the Bakhor street: list of temples