Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet. Everyday pilgrims from every corner of Tibet trek a long distance to the temple. Some of them even progress prostrate by body length to the threshold of the temple. Pilgrims fuel myriad of flickering butter lamps with yak butter, or honor their deities with white scarves (Kha-btags or Hada) while murmuring sacred mantras to show their pieties to the Buddha.
It lies at the center of the old Lhasa. Built in 647 by Songtsen Gampo and his two foreign wives, it has a history of more than 1,300. It was said that Nepal Princess Tritsun decided to build a temple to house the Jowo Sakyamuni aged 12 brought by Chinese Princess Wencheng. Princess Wencheng reckoned according to Chinese astrology that the temple should be built on the pool where the Jokhang now locates. She contended that the pool was a witch's heart, so the temple should be built on the pool to get rid of evils. The pool still exists under the temple. Then goats were used as the main pack animals, as is the reason the city is called Lhasa. The construction took 12 months. However it was originally small and had been expanded to today's scale in later dynasties. When the Fifth Dalai Lama took reign, large-scale reconstruction and renovation had been done. The temple is a combination of Han, Tibetan and Nepalese architectural techniques. Visitors will see sphinx and other weird and sacred sculptures.
The temple keeps many invaluable cultural relics. The most famous and valuable one is the Jowo Sakyamuni aged 12, which is circumambulated by thousands of pilgrims day and night. On his sides, there are altars of Songtsen Gampo and his two wives who introduced Buddhism into Tibet. The murals in the main hall are also worth seeing, depicting the procession of Princess Wencheng arriving in Tibet and the building of the Jokhang Temple while other murals tell Jataka stories. Two thangkas imaging Yamantaka and Chakrasamvara from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) still remain in perfect condition. The gold bumpa (a vase) upon which the reincarnations of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama are decided, musical instruments brought into Tibet by Wencheng and other important stuffs are also kept here.
Every year, the Great Prayer Festival will be held in the Temple. The rites of Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas' initiation into lamahood are also held in the monastery.
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