Jokhang Temple: The Religious Landmark of Lhasa

Jokhang Temple is the most important and revered religious site in the entire Lhasa. A 1,300 years old monastery is dedicated to the Buddhists throughout the world.


Overview

Jokhang temple, also known as Qoikang Monastery or Zuglagkang, is the most revered religious site throughout Lhasa. It means “House of the Lords” in Tibetan, and is located at the center of the popular Barkhar market. It was founded by the King Songtsan Gampo in 647, the first ruler of the unified Tibet, and his two wives who are credited with bringing the Buddhism in Tibet.

Gilt roof of the Jokhang temple
Gilt roof of the Jokhang temple

The two-storeyed Jokhang is best visited in the morning, though the crowds of pilgrims can be thick. Access inside the temple is possible in the afternoon through a side entrance, but only the ground-floor chapels can be viewed (and then only through a grille) when there are no pilgrims.

It’s an important pilgrimage site for all the Tibetans. Most pilgrims arrive on foot often circumambulating around the Barkhar Street.

History

Constructed in the 7th century by the King Songtsan Gampo, it contains a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that Chinese Princess Wen Cheng brought over 1300 years ago is the most venerated artifact in all of Tibet. The temple, a splendid four-floor building facing west under a guilded rooftop, is on Barkhor Square in the center of the old section of Lhasa.

Since the Chinese occupation in 1951, the temple has taken on a political role as the focus of Tibetan cultural identity and resistance.

During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards (China) ambushed the Jokhang in 1966 and for a decade there was no worship in Tibetan monasteries. Renovation of the Jokhang began in 1972, and was mostly complete by 1980.


Legend

According to the legend, the temple was built on the lake site. It was profusely chosen because every time a monastery was built in the region, it would collapse. Princess Wen Cheng advised, they must demolish the hag, which was the main reason for crumbling buildings, by filling and leveling the lake using 1,000 goats to carry soil from a mountain far away.

When the construction was completed, the site was called Ra-Sa-Vphrul-Snang (‘ra’ meaning goat and ‘sa’ meaning earth) to commemorate those goats.

 

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