Johkang Temple in Lhasa Tibet

The Jokhang Temple is located in the center of the old Lhasa City. Its name in Tibetan means “goats carrying earth to build the temple”, it refers to Zuglagkang in short, meaning “the temple of the Buddha”. It was built in 647 and was co-hosted by The Licchavi Princess Bhrikuti Devi of Nepal, the wife of Tubo Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng of Tang Dynasty. The Jokhang Temple sits facing west and covers an area of 25,100 square metres. According to the record, the temple was originally enshrined in the statue of 8-year-old Sakyamuni brought to Tubo by The Licchavi Princess Bhrikuti Devi. After Princess Wencheng of Tang Dynasty married the Tubo in the 8th century, the statue was moved to Ramoche Temple and replaced by the 12-year-old statue of Buddha brought by Princess Wencheng into Tubo. During the Tang Dynasty, the Jokhang Temple was small in size. There were only eight temples to reserve Tibetan scriptures and be dedicated to Buddhas, and it did not belong to any sect. After the creation of the Gelug Sect by Tsongkhapa in the 15th century, the incense of the temple flourished. In the 17th century, the 5th Dalai Lama carried out a large-scale expansion and repair of the Jokhang Temple and held summoning ceremonies at the Jokhang Temple every year. After the Fifth Dalai Lama died, it became a Buddhist architectural complex with 5 golden domes and 108 Buddha Halls through successive construction and repair of generations. The temple preserves wall paintings and a large number of precious cultural relics of Tubo Regime. In 1961, the Jokhang Temple was listed as the first batch of national key cultural relics protection unit. In 1994, the state government allocated large sums of money to carry out large-scale repairs to the Jokhang Temple. In November 2000, the Jokhang Temple was included in the World Cultural Heritage List as an extension project of the Potala Palace.

Pilgrims before the Johkang Temple

The architecture of the Jokhang Temple is dominated by Tibetan style, combining the architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty. It is an integration of the architectural features of both Nepal and India. It is the most splendid architecture of Tubo period in existence, and also the earliest civil structure in Tibet, creating a temple layout of Tibetan-style and Pingchuan-style. The temple sits facing west, and the temple is four stories high with a golden dome. The building is distributed along the longitudinal center axis, and is mainly composed of a porch, a courtyard, a cloister, a patio, a Buddhist temple, and monk dorms and warehouse distributed around.

The porch has a concave shape, with both sides protrude forward, leaving a large space in the middle. The porch gallery is tall, with two rows of eight columns and a huge wall painting of four heavenly kings on the back wall. There is a curtain made of woven wool or cotton in the front of the gallery, and the gilt the wheel of dharma, lying deer are placed on the top of the porch. There are two doors in the porch, and four heavenly kings sitting on the left and right sides.

The courtyard is located behind the porch, being 32 metres wide and 39.3 metres deep. It is surrounded by a circle of corridor of 6.7~10.6 metres wide and 7 metres high. The wall is painted with thousands of Buddha, hence the name "Thousand Buddhas Gallery". The courtyard used to be a place for large-scale summoning ceremonies when tens of thousands of monks from the three major temples of Lhasa gathered here and held debates, exorcism, and welcoming Maitreya.

The Buddhist Hall is made of wood. The temple roof tiles and the surrounding decoration are made of copper gilt. The golden domes with overhanging eaves are engraved with ornaments such as gods, Falun, pagodas, inverted clocks, lotus, dragons, phoenixes, lions, and birds. The Buddhist temple includes 8 halls, namely the Sakyamuni Hall, the Infinite Light Buddha Hall, the Maitreya Temple, the Thousand Hands and the Thousand Eyes Guanyin Temple. Except for the higher height of the Sakyamuni Buddha Hall, the rest of the room is not large and the layout is simple.

Shakyamuni is located in the middle of the Buddhist Hall, of two- storey high. The statue inside the temple is the original work. Among them, the statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni was brought into Tibet by Princess Wencheng. The seat is 1.5 metres high, made of bronze, and gliding overall, representing a typical Buddha statue of inland China. The tall clay sculptures behind Sakyamuni statue are all early works of Tubo period. The Sakyamuni Buddha Temple is the core of the Jokhang Temple. The main prayer activities in Lhasa are centered on the Sakyamuni Buddha Hall in the Jokhang Temple.

Cultural Relics in the temple. There are a large number of historical relics and art treasures in the Jokhang Temple, including various bronze statues, Thangka, instruments in Buddhist mass, and sacrificial vessels. One embroidered Smiling Buddha Thangka, given by Emperor Yongle of Ming Dynasty, is a rare and precious cultural relic in China. In addition, the temple also houses artifacts such as musical instruments, sheep head pots and stone washware used by Princess Wencheng.

Bronze statue. There are various statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Tara, Vajra, Heavenly Kings and various ancestors in the temple, as well as animal statues involved in Buddhism such as lions, sheep, ox and deer. Most of the statues are styles of the Tang Dynasty, and the rest are mostly Ming Dynasty statues, including a group of bronze statues with accurate years or texts, and another group of statues of gliding bronze Bodhisattva engraved with the words “during Yongle period of Ming Dynasty”, given by Emperor Yongle. The most famous one was the golden Sakyamuni statue brought by Princess Wencheng. The statues of Songtsen Gampo and two princess enshrined in the temple are all works of the 13th century.

Thangka. There are hundreds of Thangka in the temple, and a small number of them are suspended in the rooms, Buddhist temples, and halls, and a large amount of them are stored. Among them, two Ming Dynasty embroidery protection gods Thangka, are two Buddhas in the Tantric Buddhism enshrined by the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, all embroidered with colored threads, and rewarded by the Emperor Yongle to local leaders. The embroidery is still bright by far and the picture is complete, which is a rare art treasure.

The wall painting art. There are wall paintings dotting the halls of various sizes in The Jokhang Temple. There are thousands of them, covering an area of more than 4,400 square metres. The subject matter involves politics, economy, history, literature, religions and social life. It represents the artistic characteristics of the wall paintings in the two important periods of the Tubo Regime and the Fifth Dalai Lama, and has a high artistic value.

The wall paintings of the Tubo period are on the first and second floors of the Buddhist temple, and are the earliest wall paintings preserved in the Jokhang Temple. The four walls on the first floor are painted with Sakyamuni's Eight Phases, Princess Wencheng's Entry into Tibet, and the Celebration, as well as a large number of Buddha and Bodhisattva of Esoteric Buddhism and Exotoric Buddhism. Some wall paintings have been completely disfigured due to the later re-drawing and creation. The wall painting on the second floor covers an area of 50 square metres. The remaining part is full of large Tangcheng, green Tara and other Tantric Buddha statues. The picture is dominated by the Tangcheng, surrounded by Buddhas with different postures. On the northeastern wall there are still remains of Buddhist statues such as Mañjuśrī, Guanyin, Green Tara, Nursing Heaven, and Thousand Buddhas. These wall paintings are balanced, full, colorful, and simple. It is painted in simple colors such as black, white, red, yellow and blue. It resembles the Dunhuang Mogao Caves of the Northern Wei Dynasty and the early Tang Dynasty wall paintings, but it is also influenced by the styles of India and Nepal. The characteristics of wall paintings in this period mainly include: First, the wall painting art at that time was attached to religion and served religion; secondly, the form and style of wall paintings were greatly influenced by foreign art, and have not yet completely form their own ethnic characteristics and styles; Third, the wall painting art at this time has been able to accurately represent the structure and proportion of the human body, and are good at using various motions and ornaments to express the object's demeanor. Fourth, in the dynamic shaping, Tubo folk painters have a keen observation and proficient expressive power; fifth, the art of painting has a certain foundation before the wall painting art of the Jokhang Temple.

The Jokhang Temple extended the outer courtyard during the period from the fifth to the eighth and the thirteenth Dalai Lama. The number of wall paintings has increased significantly with the construction of new buildings. Compared with the early Tubo wall paintings, the characters are with more clothes, and the costumes and accessories are more delicate and subtle, the characters are full, and the facial features and gestures are rigorous and accurate. The muscle structure has a light and dark rendering, and the feelings could be expressed through the main characteristics and subtle motions of the characters, which clearly reflects the secularization tendency. The characteristics of wall paintings in this period: First, subject matter and content are abundant, the emergence of historical genre paintings; Second, the team of folk painters has grown stronger, and a number of outstanding folk painters have emerged. Third, gold and silver are used in large quantities. The art style is exquisite, delicate and the colors are magnificent. Although the Jokhang Temple is not large among the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, but its status and influence are unparalleled. The old Lhasa City is formed with the Jokhang Temple as the center. The Jokhang Temple is a temple dedicated to many Buddha statues and sacred objects for worshippers, making it a sacred hall in the minds of Tibetan Buddhists. Usually, the believers' rites and pilgrimages are concentrated here. Buddhists from various Tibetan areas such as Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan all went to the Jokhang Temple to worship the statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni. After the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1642 established the Ganden Phodrang, the Kasha and its subordinate offices were located in the Jokhang Temple. Since then, many major political and religious activities in Tibet, such as the living-Buddha assigning ceremony by the Golden Bottle, were held in front of the statue of the Sakyamuni in the Jokhang Temple. Some major festivals and Buddhist ceremonies in Tibet, such as the annual The Great Prayer Festival, are also held here.

Travelers' Questions Might Help

The questions raised by our past customers can help you get a more clear picture about tours to Tibet, read them or tell us your own questions please contract us, our specialists will reply you within 24 hours.

Ms. Ho*** from: When to get my Tibet permit
January 15, 2020 05:11

Hello, we are considering to travel in Tibet in summer. We are a family of 5, two adults and three kids, age 13(then), 10, 8. We are interested in the 10 days Mt. EBC & Namtso Lake Group tour. We are US citizens with valid 10-year Chinese multiple entry visa, which we have applied when we went to Beijing in 2019. We are currently living in South Korea.  

Questions:

1. Are kids suitable (or even allowed) for this tour?  

2. If kids can join, are there any discount deals for kids?

Answered by Helen
January 15, 2020 07:54

Dear Ms. Ho***,

    Greetings from Helen at Budget Tibet Tour and welcome you to join our 10 days Mt. Everest & Namtso Lake group tour. For your questions: 1. Your kids are suitable for this tour. Travelling in Tibet is as safe for kids as it is for their parents. While the high Tibetan plateau may be the highest place on the planet, very often, the kids that visit this region are more adaptable and have fewer problems than their parents. We also have arranged wonderful Tibet tours for many families with kids such as a tour to EBC for a family with a 3-year-old son, a 9-year-old girl and a 11-year-old boy, they did have fun in Tibet and there is no problem for them. Or you can take some medicine under the guidance of doctor to prevent high altitude before enter Tibet. 2. If kids travel with you, we'll offer some discount for them, please check your email and find more detailed information. Thanks & Regards

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

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