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Jokhang Temple

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Lhasa, China.

  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
  • Photo of Jokhang Temple
Photo of Jokhang Temple
Photo by flickr user abogada samoana
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Before the arrival of Buddhism the locations of the Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace were holy places of Bon Po, the indigenous religion of Tibet. Both sites are also associated with the King Songsten Gampo. When Gampo’s wife, the Chinese Princess Wencheng, arrived in Lhasa in 641 she brought two statues, the Akshobhya Vajra depicting the Buddha at the age of eight, and the Jowo Sakyamuni depicting Buddha at the age of twelve. At a Bon Po site, the ‘Paradise of the Water Divinities’ the Ramoche temple was constructed to house the Jowo Sakyamuni statue.

A second temple, the Rasa Trulnang Tsuglag Khang, was constructed to house the Akshobhya Vajra statue. The site of this temple, in the middle of Lake Wothang, was determined through geomantic divination yet work done each day was mysteriously undone that evening. By further divinations the King learned that Tibet was situated upon the back of a sleeping demoness. The demoness was inhibiting the introduction of Buddhism and could only be pacified by the construction of twelve temples at specific geomantic locations in the countryside. The King attended to this work - which is very clearly the Buddhist usurping of pagan sacred sites - and then completed the Rasa temple and installed the Akshobhya Vajra statue. This temple or ‘House of Mysteries’ was erected upon the heart of the demoness and was also considered to be a gateway to the underworld.

In 649 the statues were switched between the two temples and the Rasa temple was renamed Jokhang, meaning 'Shrine of the Jowo'. Because the temple is not controlled by a particular sect of Tibetan Buddhism it attracts adherents of all the sects as well as followers of Bon-Po. Consisting of three floors and many chapels, the Jokhang has undergone many reconstructions since the 7th century. Housed in the Jowo Lhakhang shrine, the Jowo Sakyamuni or ‘Wish-Fulfilling Gem’ is cast from precious metals and decorated with glittering jewels. Three pilgrimage circuits exist in Lhasa: the Lingkhor, which encircles the city’s sacred district; the Barkhor, which encloses the Jokhang temple; and the Nangkhor, a ritual corridor inside the Jokhang.

Photo: Roof of Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace in the distance, Lhasa

More About Jokhang Temple from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews

“Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa”

"The Potala Palace, winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century, symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The complex, comprising the White and Red Palaces with their ancillary buildings… Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple

The epitome of Tibetan architecture, and indeed Tibetan nationhood in general, the grand Potala Palace in Lhasa was built in 1645 and is actually home to two palaces – the Red Palace and the White Palace. Since the 17th century, this World Heritage site has been the primary home of the venerated Dalai Lama until political strife and Chinese invasion caused the current Buddhist religion leader to flee the country. Each Dalai Lama since Lobsang Gyatso, who was responsible for the construction of the palaces, has been buried here. The 7th century Johkang Monastery adds even more religious significance to the site, famous for its gold statue of an adolescent Sakyamuni Buddha.

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