Jokhang Temple—the Most Sacred Temple in Tibet

With its predominant Buddhist tradition, Tibet has the largest concentration of monasteries and temples than anywhere else on earth. Many of them are easily few hundred years old. Out of thousands of holy Buddhist sites, Jokhang Temple is considered to be the most sacred one. It is the Mecca of Tibetan Buddhism, which all the Tibetans must visit at least once in one’s lifetime.

5228Jokhang in Tibetan means the “the House of Jowo” Jowo here is referred to the Buddha statue of Jowo Shakyamuni, the undisputedly most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. The precious statue of Buddha depicting the Lord Buddha aged twelve was presented to the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo by Chinese princess Wencheng as a part of her dowries when she got married to the King in seventh century.

The Jokhang Temple construction was started by King Songtsen Gampo approximately in the year of 642 to house the Jowo Shakyamuni stature. One historical narration also states that besides housing the precious statues of Jowo, the Temple was built for the two brides of the King, the Chinese Prince Wancheng, and Princess Bhrituti of Nepal.

Apart from the sacred statue of Jowo Shakyamuni, there are also other precious statues of Chenresig, Guru Padmasambhava, and King Sontsen Gampo and his two foreign princesses. Most of the original statues were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but they were recreated later by including the broken pieces of the original statues. On the third floor of the temple there is an image of Palden Lhamo, a fierce protector of both Lhasa and the Dalai Lama.

The location of the sacred temple is carefully chosen as the middle of the Lhasa at the time of construction. Today we find it located on the historical Barkhor Square in the old section of Lhasa. The total area of the temple is about 25,000 square meters, with Barkhor Street circulating the entire temple.

The beautiful architectural style of the Jokhang is based on the Indian vihara design blended with Nepalses and Tang Dynasty styles. The most iconic external design of the temple is the statues of two golden deer flanking a Dharma wheel at the rooftop of the main entrance.

Jokhang Temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace,” Potala Palace and Jokhang Temaple are the twin most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. If you can find a good tourist guide during the visit, you will have the chance to learn a thorough history of Tibetan Buddhism