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.

 

Po Cha (Tea), the Heritage of Tibet

Po Cha is a widely consumed tea in the Tibet and most countries surrounding the Himalayas. The assorted drink infused with locally available items is also a delicacy in most parts of South Asia, and carries the richer Tibetan heritage.


Overview

Po Cha or the Butter tea is also known as Tibetan tea, Cha Süma (Tibetan “churned tea”), Sūyóu chá (Mandarin) or Gur Gur in the Ladakhi language. It is a popular everyday drink consumed by the inhabitants of the Himalaya regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India and Tibet.

Traditionally, it’s made from Tibetan black tea, milk and unsalted Yak butter. Today, cow’s butter is popularly used while making the tea, mainly because of the easy availability and lesser cost. However, the inhabitants of Tibet still prefer to drink Po Cha with Yak’s butter.

History

Po cha
Butter Tea

The earliest history of the Po Cha goes back to medieval Tibet. It originated in the 7th century Tang Dynasty, however, it didn’t reach its current state until 13th century. The early migrants and traders from Tibet flourished the consumption of the tea to the other surrounding nations.

Today, the native Tibetans and most Mongol tribes residing in Nepal, Bhutan and India drink Po Cha on a daily basis.

The traditional process of making butter tea can take a long time and is pretty complicated. People use a special black tea that comes from an area called Pemagul in Tibet. The tea comes in the shape of bricks and can be crumbled and boiled for hours.


Preparation

  • 4 cups of water
  • Plain black tea (Preferablly Tibetan ethnic tea)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter (Unsalted butter from the female Yak)
  • 1/3 cup of Yak’s milk

Materials needed: One churn, blender, or some other large container with a tight lid to shake the tea up with.

The tea is boiled in water for half a day, achieving a dark brown color. It is then skimmed, and poured into a cylinder with fresh yak butter and salt and then churned. The purplish liquid is the end result of the churn which can be poured into clay tea-pots or the jars.

Nowadays, when modern method has bring variety of  tea style at home. People often make butter tea using tea bags, different types of butter available in the market and a blender.

Tibetan Mastiff, the Mountain Dog

Tibetan Mastiff is a large breed of dog found in and around Tibetan plateau. A canine selectively bred for high-altitude region is today a pride of many South Asian households. It’s gigantic size and aggression can sometime prove to be overwhelming to the foreigners, and it may require a lot of taming.


Tibetan Mastiff

tibetan mastiff history
Ancient interbreeding with the Tibet grey wolf made the Tibetan Mastiff adapt to the high altitude.

Tibetan Mastiff or the Tibetan Dog is known to have diverged from the gray wolf some 58,000 years ago. The first migrants to Tibet, 5,000 years ago, brought the primitive mastiffs and interbred them with Tibetan Grey Wolf, which gave them their special ability to withstand high altitude.

In Tibet, they are called Do Khyi, and in Nepal, they are popularly known as Bhote Kukur (Bhote = Mongol, Kukur = Dog).

The term Tibetan mastiff is a misnomer. It was introduced by the Europeans who first came to Tibet or learned about the canine. Mastiff is a common name used for large breed of dogs in Europe. Most experts tend to call it Tibetan Mountain Dog.

Through years of selective breeding and domestication, they are known to have become the reliable house pet.

Habitat & Size

They are mostly found in and around the Tibetan plateau, mainly; China, Mongolia, Nepal and India. A large breed dog often requires larger territory, therefore, they aren’t suited for cities or apartments. Villagers in the Himalayan region mainly keep Tibetan Mastiff to herd the sheep and other flocks, and to protect the home during the night.

An adult Tibetan Mastiff can reach heights up to 83 cm (33 inches). Dogs bred in the West weigh between 45–72 kg (100-160 pounds). They can live up to 10-14 years. Because of their strong built body and aggression, they can fight off a larger predator, like, mountain lions, tigers, wolves and bears.


Facts

The Tibetan Mastiff is a primitive GUARDIAN breed.

The powerful Tibetan Mastiff is a naturally protective and territorial dog. This means he will guard your property (house, yard, car, other pets, etc.) and your person.

It is a highly INDEPENDENT and INTELLIGENT breed.

The Tibetan Mastiff exhibits an extremely independent, stubborn nature and a wondrous depth of intelligence and character. It does not tend to show any of the attributes of the more obedient/trainable breeds that can be taught to perform simple or complex routines. Leash training is a must.

It requires an INTERACTIVE RELATIONSHIP with its owner.

Committed and interactive owners are required to teach boundaries and guide a dog through the steps of basic dog manners. The Tibetan Mastiff is considered to be a challenging breed to care for.

It needs SOCIALIZATION.

Because of its guarding tendencies are instinctual the Tibetan Mastiff needs a great deal of socialization. He needs to be introduced to many people, places and different situations right from early puppy-hood .

It requires a FENCED YARD.

This is a guardian breed and it is neither wise nor responsible to allow a guardian breed to be loose on your property, be it a surrounding open yard or acreage. Not only do these dogs have a strong tendency to roam but they are also very protective of their home, yard and family.

It can be DESTRUCTIVE, an ESCAPE ARTIST and a nuisance BARKER.

Destructive behavior due to boredom or anxiety is not uncommon for the Tibetan Mastiff. Solid and secure containment areas are a must with this breed. When left outside overnight, nocturnal barking as well as barking in general are common complaints.

It is a SLOW-MATURING breed.

Although the Tibetan Mastiff is a large-to-giant breed, it has a relatively long lifespan. Ten to fourteen years is typical. The breed is very slow to mature. While it is usually agreed upon that females mature quicker than males, both genders can take up to 4-7 years to fully mature to their physical potential.

It is affected by the changing of the SEASONS.

The Tibetan Mastiff normally sheds its thick undercoat only once in the springtime and female mastiffs typically reproduce only once a year.

It loves a COLD climate.

The Tibetan Mastiff does not typically do well in extremely hot and humid conditions. This does not mean that he cannot live in warmer climates but it does mean that he should be provided access to air-conditioned facilities during the summer.

It is generally tolerant of CHILDREN and OTHER PETS.

The Tibetan Mastiff does best with adult-supervised children who have been taught to be respectful and who show consideration for the dog’s space. Extra care should be shown for visiting children as children’s play may seem threatening or alarming.

It can be SAME-SEX AGGRESSIVE.

If you currently own a dog and are considering adding a Tibetan Mastiff as a second dog, it is best to consider getting a puppy or dog of the opposite gender. Same-sex aggression is often a reality when two males or females vie for dominance. Neutering/spaying does not guarantee that same-sex adult dogs will live in harmony with each other.


Sources

The Grandeur of Tibet

Tibet is nick-named the “Roof of the World” for its geographical significance. The average elevation is around 4,900 meters. Today, it is known as the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The Tibetan plateau is signified by its vast arid landscape and deserts. Due to harsh weather and altitude, the vegetation remains scare throughout the region.

It has managed to intrigue foreigners for ages. Ever since, it opened for the tourists, the place has seen many social and economical advancements.

Tourist Seasons
Tourist Seasons

Lhasa

Lhasa is the capital of Tibet. A forbidden city during primeval time, Lhasa was completely inaccessible by the foreigners. News journalists and photographers could never make it inside the city despite crossing the border and entering Tibet.

Because of its discreet nature, the city rarely made any contact with the modern world for thousand of years. One couldn’t fly or ride to Lhasa before but walk. The first theater in the country was build at the time of 14th Dalai Lama.

By the 17th century, Lhasa became a home of not only native Tibetans but migrants and traders from Greater Indian subcontinent and mainland China, forming a community of Muslims, Hindus along with Han Chinese. It was only after the Chinese occupation, that Lhasa was opened for tourists.


Facts about Tibet

  1. Following the coup by Chinese government in the 1950s, the city of Lhasa was occupied by the Red Army and kept under strict supervision for decades. It was finally opened for international tourists in the mid 1980s.
  2. Tibet remains closed during February and March. May, June, July, August, September and October remains the best time to visit.
  3. Care to carry extra layers of clothing during winter.
  4. You must obtain Tibet Permit before entering the region. A Chinese VISA won’t be enough to visit Tibet.
  5. The country is wide and huge. You won’t be able to map each region and corners during your visit, thefore, keep only important places in your check-list.
  6. Due to its sheer altitude, the oxygen level throughout the area remains around 40%. Trouble in breathing and heart-rate fluctuation is common.
  7. Mount Kailash and Mansarovar are parts of the Tibet. These two constitute as the major pilgimage site for both the Hindus and Buddhists throughout South Asia. Thousands of pilgrims make a journey to Kailash on foot every year.

Guidelines for Tourists

  • Do not wear a hat inside the Jokhang, Potala or other sacred sites. Please no short pants or tank tops. When visiting shrines it is customary to leave a small money offering, especially where you do not have to buy a ticket!
  • Circumambulate stupas and other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction.
  • Do not climb onto statues, mani stones or other sacred objects.
  • Avoid eating garlic before visiting a temple. Tibetans find the garlic breath in a temple disrespectful.
  • Photography is NOT allowed inside the Potala Palace. You can take photos in the Jokhang temple. Some monasteries will allow photography upon payment of a small donation or fee. Monks begging will often allow a photograph after you make a small contribution. When in doubt, ask before snapping your camera.

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