Jokhang Temple in Tibet

Jokhang Temple in Tibet
Jokhang Temple in Tibet

Buddhism Articles. The Jokhang , also known as the Qoikang Monastery,  is a Buddhist temple in Barkhor Square in Lhasa. Tibetans, in general, consider this temple as the most sacred temple in Tibet. The temple is currently maintained by the Gelug school, but they accept worshipers from all sects of Buddhism.

Location of Jokhang

The temple, considered the "spiritual heart of the city" and the most sacred in Tibet, is at the center of an ancient network of Buddhist temples in Lhasa. It is the focal point of commercial activity in the city, with a maze of streets radiating from it. The Jokhang is 1,000 metres (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.

History

The Jokhang was originally built to house an image of Buddha brought to Tibet by King Songtsen Gampo's Nepalese wife. However, another image, the Jowa Sakyamuni, was later moved here by the king's other wife (the Chinese Princess Wencheng), and it is this image that gives the Jokhang both its name and its spiritual potency: Jokhang means 'chapel of the Jowo'.

What to See at Jokhang Temple

Tourists can only tour Jokhang Temple in the afternoon; the morning is reserved for pilgrims. The best way to experience the temple is to arrive at 8am to watch the pilgrims perform their devotions, then visit the interior in the afternoon. The temple is relatively quiet then, save for the presence of Chinese student tour guides.

Standing four stories tall and covering an area of about 25,000 square meters in the heart of Lhasa, Jokhang Temple combines local Tibetan elements with influences from Nepal, China and India. In the front is a large plaza and open porch, which is usually filled with prostrate Tibetan pilgrims.

The exterior of the temple is decorated with deer and wheel motifs, early symbols of Buddhism. Both represent the Buddha's first sermon, in which he "turned the wheel of the Dharma" in a deer park near Varanasi, India.

Pilgrimage

Jokhang Temple is a very important pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists. Pilgrims come from all corners of Tibet, usually on foot and often performing austerities for penance along the way. More prostrations are undertaken in the plaza in front of the temple. Before entering, most pilgrims circumambulate the temple on the Barkhor, a sacred path that is also lined with market selling yak butter and jewelry.

Inside the temple, pilgrims make their way gradually to the central shrine, often crawling on their hands and knees or prostrate on their bellies. They hum prayers while also spinning prayer wheels, and bring offerings (typically white scarves and yak butter for the votive candles) to the many chapels that ring the shrine. Finally, they pray before the sacred image of the Jowo Shakyamuni.

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