Jokhang Temple

Lhasa, China

Jokhang Temple is a relic of the past and has many architectural features of not only Tibetan, but Nepalese and Tang cultures as well. It was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status as an extension of neighboring Potala Palace. Buddhist devotees from all over the world come here for blessings, as do great hordes of tourists, who want to take in the stunning building and the city which is the birthplace of Buddhism.

Conveniently built in the heart of the city, getting to Jokhang temple is very easy. You can take one of the many public buses going downtown to Chongsaikang station or hail a cab. Ideally, a trip here maybe combined with a visit to Potala Palace and Barkhor street (circumambient road just outside the Temple). The Temple is open from 07:00 to 17:30, mainly for worshippers. Tourist times are restricted, so check beforehand. In peak season, entry rates are RMB85 while in off-season (from 20th October to 20th April) the rate is RMB35. Photographing inside the temple’s vicinity is prohibited. However, up on the roof of the temple, you may take pictures of breathtaking views of Potala Palace and the old town of Lhasa. Either do your research or do as most tourists do and hire a guide so your experience is more enriching and informative.

Centuries old and regarded as the holiest Temple in Buddhist religion, Jokhang has much to offer visitors. It was built by King Songsten Gampo to house the statue of Jowo Shakyamuni brought by his Nepalese wife in her dowry. It has undergone much conflict and seen a lot of restoration work in different periods. Hence, the different cultural influences in its architectural design.

There is an entryway for worshippers and a separate entryway for tourists. Inside, as you come upon the main yard offering an overview of the 4-storey building, you are hit by the strong smell of incense, which is stronger inside then out in Barkhor street. The golden roof with the chakra or dharma wheel and two flanking deer will immediately catch your eye. There are two steles or tablets with inscriptions of major events in the Temple’s history in the main yard.

The next place of interest is the main hall that contains the famous and sacred life-size statue of Shakyamuni at age 12 which is adorned in jewels and carefully cared for. On another floor of the temple, you can catch statues of King Gampo and his two wives, Princess Wencheng and Princess Bhrikuti. Besides the statues, all around the palace are elaborate Buddha statues, Thangkas and murals adorning the walls.

No trip to Lhasa is considered complete if you haven’t checked out Jokhang Temple, even though it is smaller in size then Drepung and Sera Monastery. Remember to go in a clockwise direction as that is said to bring blessing and good luck. And if you feel compelled to take pictures of devotees, be polite enough to ask permission first before you go on a photo frenzy!

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