Situated in the heart of old Lhasa city, Jokhang Temple is regarded as the spiritual center of Tibet. Along with the Potala Palace, it is a sight not to be missed for those who travel in Tibet, and one of the best places to learn about the unique Tibetan Buddhism. The temple was listed into the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
What to see in Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple is a gigantic architectural complex which demonstrates a combination of the style of Tibetan, Han, India and Nepal, as well as a Mandala world outlook of Buddhism. The main building is a 4 stories temple, with roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles. Atop of the building you can see a Dharma Wheel (chakra) flanked by two deer, which represents the unity of all things and symbolizes Sakyamuni himself.
Jokhang Temple is a holy shrine that well preserves numerous historical relics since Tang Dynasty, including the statues of King Songtesn Gampo, Princess Wencheng and Princess Bhrikuti Devi. Most of these Buddhist statues were brought by the two princesses as part of their dowries. The statue of Sakyamuni at age 12 sitting in the middle of the main hall is the most precious treasure of the temple. It has been gilded many times since it was brought by Princess Wencheng, and decorated elaborately with jewels typical of Tibet. Statues of King Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti are on the second floor.
The golden roof is a highlight in Jokhang Temple, as it offers a great view of Lhasa city and the Potala Palace. The roof is a way back to the real world from the inner temple, here you can see the monks debating in the courtyards within temple and the devout pilgrims prostrating themselves at the entrance of the temple, and the Barkhor street, which is a famous Kora around Jokhang Temple and a market for selling souvenirs.
The History and Legend of Jokhang Temple
In the local legend, Jokhang Temple was constructed on the former site of a lake, The lake site was the idea of Prince Wen Cheng, who was a learned woman and found that the geography of Tibet was much like a hag, with the lake at the heart. She suggested that the hag must be demolished by filling and leveling the lake using 1,000 goats to carry soil from a mountain far away, or it will destroy every temple in the region. Finally the temple was completed and was named Ra-Sa-Vphrul-Snang ('ra' meaning goat and 'sa' meaning earth in Tibetan) to commemorate those goats.
After years of development, The city of Ra-Sa grew around the temple and over time, become known as Lhasa. The temple was the origin of Tibetan Buddhism and has become an inseparable part of Tibetan history and culture. Maybe the legend is not true, but it makes the Temple more mystical and beautiful.