Jokhang Temple, also known as Jokhang Monastery, is considered as the spiritual heart of the city and the most sacred monastery in Tibet due to the status of Jowo Shakyamuni. It's at the center of an ancient network of Buddhist temples in Lhasa. The Jokhang is 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) east of the Potala Palace. Barkhor, the market square in central Lhasa, has a walkway for pilgrims to walk around the temple (which takes about 20 minutes). Barkhor Square is marked by four stone sankang (incense burners), two of which are in front of the temple and two in the rear. 

Tibetan people called the area of Barkhor Street and Jokhang Temple as Lhasa(it means the place of the Gods in the Tibetan language). Thus you can see Jokhang Temple has a supreme position in Tibetan people's minds. If you stay in Jokhang Temple longer and observe it carefully, you will find it's the center of Lhasa people’s living life. All people's daily lives expand around this monastery. With the thick smell of yak butter, echoing with the murmur of mantras and bustling with awed pilgrims, visiting Jokhang Temple is an unrivaled travel experience.

History of Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple was built in the center of the Lhasa old town. Estimated dates for Jokhang Temple’s founding range from 639 to 647 AD. Construction was initiated by King Songtsen Gampo to house an image of Mikyoba (Akshobhya) brought to Tibet as part of the dowry of his Nepali wife Princess Bhrikuti. Ramoche Temple was constructed at the same time to house another Buddha image, Jowo Sakyamuni, brought to Tibet by his Chinese wife Princess Wencheng. It is thought that after the death of Songtsen Gampo, Jowo Sakyamuni was moved from Ramoche Temple for its protection and hidden in Jokhang Temple by Princess Wencheng. The image has remained in Jokhang Temple ever since, and it’s the most revered Buddha image in all of Tibet.

Rasa Thrulnag Tsuklakang ("House of Mysteries" or "House of Religious Science") was the Jokhang's ancient name. When King Songtsen built the temple, his capital city was known as Rasa. After the king's death, Rasa became known as Lhasa; the temple was called Jokhang—"Temple of the Lord"—derived from Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha, its primary image. The Jokhnag's Chinese name is Dazhaosi(大昭寺); it is also known as Zuglagkang, Qoikang Monastery, and aka Tsuglhakhang.

Statue of Sakyamuni

Jowo Shakyamuni or Jowo Rinpoche(Rinpoche means treasures in the Tibetan language) is considered to be the most sacred and important Buddha image in Tibet. It's a life-sized Sakyamuni Buddha statue enshrined in Jokhang Temple. This Sakyamuni Buddha statue have been brought to Tibet in the 7th century when Buddhism began. And this Buddha statue is considered to be a direct link to the Buddha and the most accurate portrait of Sakyamuni Buddha. This is the reason why this life-sized Sakyamuni Buddha statue makes Lhasa the holy land and Jokhang Temple the center of the world's Buddhism. It was said before Sakyamuni entered parinirvana under the Bodhi tree, he granted the request from disciples to bless 3 life-sized Buddha statues in order to guide all living creatures, which are an 8-year-old life-sized statue, a 12-year-old life-sized statue, and a 25-year-old life-sized statue. Today, the precious 12-year-old life-sized Buddha statue is enshrined at Jokhang Temple. On the way of pilgrimage, the 12-year-old life-sized statue is the destination of every devotee. Those believers use their bodies to measure land and the end-point that their fingertips touch is the bluestone floor in front of Jokhang Temple. It's said whoever sees the Jowo Rinpoche statue will relieve from pain, generate real faith, and possess all the merits of seeing, hearing, thinking and touching.

The legend of Jokhang Temple

  • The Legend goes that there was a lake before Jokhang Temple set up. By the lake, Tubo king Srongtsen Gampo ever made a promise to Nepali wife princess Bhrikuti that he would build a temple wherever the ring dropped. Then he threw out the ring and it fell into the lake exactly. Immediately, a bright light appeared above the lake and a nine-stage white pagoda emerged in the light. Thus a magnificent building project started here and thousands of white goats were used to transfer soil for building.
  • It was said that princess Bhrikuti and princess Wencheng each brought a precious Sakyamuni Buddha statue as their most important dowries. Princess Bhrikuti brought the 8-year-old life-sized Sakyamuni Buddha statue and princess Wencheng brought another 12-year-old life-sized Sakyamuni Buddha statue. To enshrine such holy Buddha statues, Songtsen Gampo built the earliest Buddhism architectures -- Jokhang Temple and Ramoche Temple.
  • According to the legend, Jokhang Temple was flooded several times during the construction. Princess Wencheng found the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was a demon woman (local people called it Rasa) lying supine on the ground. The shape of Rasa represented as having a body of a human, with the head towards east and feet towards the west. The lake under Jokhang Temple was the heart of Rasa and lake water was its blood. Princess Wencheng said they had to fill in the lake with soil and build a Temple to keep the whole Qinghai-Tibet Plateau safe, as it's the heart of Rasa. She also recommended another outlying 12 sites to build small temples to dominate Rosa's arms, legs, and joints.

Architectural Styles

Jokhang Temple is the most splendid surviving building of the Tubo period in Tibet and also the earliest civil structural building in Tibet. It integrated the architectural styles of Tibet, the Tang Dynasty of China, Nepal, and India, and has become a model of Tibetan religious architecture for thousands of years. Over the centuries, Jokhang Temple has undergone many renovations, but the basic layout is ancient and differs from that of many other Tibetan religious structures. One crucial difference is the building’s east-west orientation. It's said to face towards Nepal to honor Princess Bhrikuti. A few interior carved pillars and entrance arches remain from the original 7th-century work of Newari artisans brought from the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal to work on the construction.

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