The Oldest Building of Lhasa City
“Jokhang” meaning “shrine of the Buddha”, located in the center of old city Lhasa, is a temple of Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It has 1300-year history, and boasts the highest position in the Tibetan Buddhism, and is the spirit center of Tibet and the holiest destination of Tibetan pilgrims.
In December 1994, Potala Palace was listed in the world cultural heritage list by UNESCO. In 2000 and 2001, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka were listed in the world cultural heritage list as supplements.
The building of Jokhang Temple started in the heyday of the Tubo Kingdom in the seventh century, namely in 647of the Tibetan King Songtsan Gambo Regime, and its building time lasts 3 years. It is said that its building aim is worshiping a statue, namely the 8-year-old body image of Shakyamuni, which was brought from Katmandu for Tubo King Songtsan Gambo marring the princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. After the completion of the Jokhang Temple, the governments of Yuan (1206-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties had repaired and expanded it, so it has the current scale.
The Jokhang Temple is building in the most glorious period of Tubo in Tibet and is the earliest earthy and wooden structure in Tibet and has created the architecture pattern of Tibetan monastery. Integrating the building style of Tibet, Tang Dynasty, Nepal and India, the Jokhang Temple has been the eternal example of Tibetan religious architecture. The golden roof and bracket set of the whole building are typical Han style. Besides, barbican and beams are Tibetan style.
The layout of the Jokhang Temple is different from the Buddhist temples in the Han-Chinese areas. With side halls on both sides, its main hall, "Jokang", sits east to west and is four stories high. The layout structure reproduces the universe ideal model of the Mandala of Buddhism. The statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha enshrined in this temple is also known as Jowo Sakyamuni that is a 12-year-old body image of Sakyamuni brought from Chang’an by Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty when she married the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. So here has become the core of Jokhang Temple and the ultimate destination of Tibetan Buddhist worshipers.
Figures of Shakyamuni were created according to Shakyamuni himself when Shakyamuni was alive. After the image was formed, the disciples were fortunate to invite the Buddha Shakyamuni to bless his own Buddha statue. The value of the statue is not only because of its historical value and cultural relics but also because the statue is no different from the Buddha himself 2500 years ago. There are only three Buddha statues of Sakyamuni in the world, because Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, opposed idol worship and did not enshrine and worship statues. At the end of his life, Sakyamuni agreed to make statues of himself at three different ages, and personally painted the statues. Among these three Buddha statues, the gilding bronze statue of Shakyamuni, who was the prince when he was 12 years old, is the most exquisite and noble. This statue entered into China from ancient India and then was brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty. The 12-year-old statue of Sakyamuni has been worshipped at the Jokhang Temple till now.
There are many Buddhist halls in the temple, including the Sakyamuni Hall, the Eight Medicine Masters Hall, the Thousand Hands and Thousand Eyes Guanyin Hall, the Maitreya Hall, the Tsongkhapa Master Hall, the Songtsan Gambo Hall, and the Tibetan Kings Hall. The temple has various wonderful woodcarvings and murals, and nearly a thousand-meter-long Tibetan murals "Princess Wencheng Entering Tibet" and "Constructing Jokhang Temple". There are 103 woodcarving crawling beasts and human lions with man’s face and lion’s body under the eaves of the second and third floors in the main hall.
A circle around the Sakyamuni Hall in the center of the Jokhang Temple is called "Nangkhor", and a circle around the outer wall of the Jokhang Temple is called "Barkhor", and the street outside the Jokhang Temple is called "Barkhor Street”, centering on the Jokhang Temple, a large circle including the Potala Palace, Yaowang Shan (Medicine Masters Mountain) and the Ramoche Monastery is called "Linkhor". These three rings from the inside to the outside are the pilgrimage routes of the Tibetan people.
Incense burns in front of the temple all day, and the believers kowtow and worship devoutly on the blue stone ground in front of the door and leave the deep moulages that are equal to their body length. Thousands of butter lamps are ever bright, leaving traces of time and pilgrims.
From the golden roof of Jokhang Temple, you can see the Jokhang Temple Square. On the right side is the Potala Palace on the hill and the willow tree in the vicinity is "Princess Willow". According to legend, it was planted by Princess Wencheng.
Entering the small square in front of Jokhang Temple, you can see the whole picture of Jokhang Temple. The first view coming into eyes are two stone monuments surrounded by a fence. To the south is the Tang-Tubo Alliance Monument, 3.42 meters high, 0.82 meters wide, and 0.35 meters thick. Engraved with Tibetan and Chinese characters in Changqing Period of Tang Dynasty (823 AD), it is a historical testimony of the unity and friendship between the two major ethnic groups, Han Nationality and Tibetan Nationality.