Jokhang Temple: A Tibetan Treasure

Included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2000, the Jokhang Temple is located in Lhasa and is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Pilgrims.

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The Jokhang Temple was built on the former site of a lake. According to the legend, the lake site was chosen after many failed attempts to build a temple in the region. Prior to this, every time a monastery was built, it would collapse. Confused by this phenomenon, Tibetans were advised to build the monastery by filling and leveling the lake using 1,000 goats to carry soil from a mountain far away. Whether the legend is true or not, this temple brought Buddhism into this land and became an inseparable part of Tibetan history and culture, and over time, become known as Lhasa.

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The Jokhang Temple is a four-storey timber complex with a golden top. It adopted the architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty, as well as those of Tibet and Nepal. Standing in its square, I could see the entire complex and the amazing mountains in the background. On the square there are two steles, one recording an alliance between the king of Tibet and the emperor of the Tang, the other portraying the teaching of the local people to prevent and treat smallpox, a once incurable disease in that region. In the eastern section of the yard there are rows of votive lights. These flicking lights provide a path leading all the way to the main hall. The main hall, over 1,300 years old, is the oldest shrine of the complex. Above the major entrance, there is a Dharma Wheel flanked by two golden deer. This represents the unity of all things.

When I learned that the Jokhang Temple was used so frequently for pilgrims I didn’t think too much about it at first, but when you arrive here, there are literally dozens of pilgrims (that may not sound like many to you) that are kneeling on the floor before the entrance and praying. It is both a nice sight and slightly inconvenient, as you have to negotiate your way around the pilgrims to enter the complex yourself.

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You’ll need to allow at least 1 hour to visit the Jokhang Temple, and it certainly isn’t cheap. CNY85 is the standard admission fee (at least for tourists it is) and that’s nearly £9 per person, but then again if you were budgeting too much you probably wouldn’t be in Lhasa anyway, right? I think the money is ultimately well worth it, as the Jokhang Temple is rightly known as the true treasure of Tibet.

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3 thoughts on “Jokhang Temple: A Tibetan Treasure

  1. When were you in Tibet? I’m curious to know if/how things have changed since my visits in 2009 and 2010. How oppressive was the Chinese presence when you were there? I guess it often depends on the status of Sin0-Tibetan relations, but during one of our visits, they closed the country to visitors. We felt like the only Westerners there at times, and the police kept shooing us out of Barkhor Square if we sat too long!

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    1. I was there earlier in 2015, end of June. Wow, that sounds dangerous what you had to endure. There was nothing like that during my visit, and I am very glad! 😮 Tourism should be allowed to thrive in Tibet, although much like in Bhutan, there are benefits of restricting the number of visitors in order to preserve the environment (although I know that’s not why China do it with Tibet…).

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