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The Jokhang, also called the Jokang, Jokhang Temple, Jokhang Monastery or Tsuklakang, is located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the capital of Tibetan autonomous region in China. For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.
The history of Jokhang goes back to 641 AD and relates closely to Songtsän Gampo, the first great emperor who expanded a regional state created by Namri Songtsen, his father, thus laying a foundation for a powerful Tibetan Empire which continued for more than two hundred years. Among other achievements, Songtsän Gampo is credited for the introduction of Buddhism into Tibetan Empire.
The arrival of Buddhism to the empire is linked traditionally to the Chinese princess Wencheng (Wen Cheng) - Songtsän Gampo married her in 641 AD when she arrived in Tibet. Some historians believe that Gampo's involvement with Buddhism took place earlier following his marriage to the Nepali princess Bhrikuti Devi (also known as Bhelsa Tritsun meaning "Nepali consort" or as Khri bTsun), one of his first wives. According to the widely accepted version of historical events related to the Jokhang Temple, both wives brought unique Buddhist statues and images from China and Nepal to Tibet. To house these relics Songtsän Gampo build the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa in 647 AD.
The temple was built on a small lake. Allegedly, the place was chosen by Gampo's wife, princess Wen Cheng, following Chinese astrology guidelines. In particular, the temple was built on a body of water to get rid of evil spirits since the lake was determined to be a witch's heart. The original structure was small. Large scale additions and renovation took place under the reign of the Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, a prominent political and religious leader in 17th century Tibet.
The original architectural style of the temple was the one of Buddhist monasteries in India (vihara). Its standard design consisted of a walled rectangular court with small cells on its sides. However, due to changes introduced later, the current appearance of the temple is reminiscent of the mixture of Nepalese and Chinese architectural styles. The entire temple complex occupies today approximately 6.2 acres (25,000 sq.m).
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What Makes It Special
The religious, historic and cultural importance of the Jokhang Temple is enormous. For centuries it has served as a remarkable Buddhist religious complex housing unique gold statues of Buddha Sakyamuni and became the most sacred place and ultimate destination for Buddhist pilgrims.
The Jokhang Temple itself is a masterpiece of Tibetan architecture. Its beauty and originality as well as rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape add to its historic and religious importance. The temple was included in UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000 as part of the Potala Palace complex (also located in Lhasa not far from the temple; note, Potala Palace is not covered in this article.)
Along with the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple is the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. Visitors can see various exotic and sacred relics and sculptures in the temple where the most famous and valuable being the sculpture of Jowo Sakyamuni Buddha at the age of 12. It is because of the statue the temple and the city of Lhasa are considered to be sacred places. Devout Buddhists believe that the statue has exactly the same appearance as Buddha Sakyamuni 2500 years ago and come to Jokhang to take a look at the divinity.
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Directions To Destination
International travelers come to China by air: Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai are China’s best-served international airports, receiving direct worldwide flights.
From Chinese cities (Beijing, Chengdu, Kunming, Xian, Chongqing and Xining) or Katmandu, Nepal most travelers fly to Lhasa arriving to the Gonggar Airport of Lhasa. There are daily flights seven days per week from Beijing to Lhasa. The ticket costs start from $350 plus fees and tax ($20 - $25). The flight duration is about 6-7 hours.
The Gonggar Airport is located in Gonggar County, Shannan Region, Tibet, 40.3 miles (65 km ) south of Lhasa city at the south bank of the grand Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River. It takes slightly more than one hour and costs approximately $4 (¥ 25) to get by shuttle bus to downtown Lhasa. A taxi will cost you about $25 (¥150).
It is possible to travel by train using the Qinghai-Tibet railway completed in 2006. You can take the train all the way from Beijing to Lhasa with a stop in Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors.
If you want to travel by bus, keep in mind that despite a number of routes into Tibet, officially only two are allowed for foreign travelers. The first is via Nepal. One popular land tour is via the Friendship Highway that runs from Kathmandu to Lhasa. The 570 miles (920 km) trip is spectacular. It takes three to five days with stops at sights along the way.
The second land route for foreigners into Tibet is 1200 miles (1,930 km) Qinghai-Tibet highway connecting Xining and Lhasa. The Golmud-Lhasa highway, 650 miles (1,050 km) long, is the part of it. The trip starts in Golmud (a city that lies on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway). The road runs at the altitude of about 13,120 ft (4,000 m). It goes along the Kunlun Mountains and vast grasslands amazing by their natural beauty. The price of a bus ticket is $170 (¥1100) which include the permit. The cost of four day tour from Golmud to Lhasa is $260 (¥1700).
Note: all prices above are 2011.
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Best Time To Go
The ideal time to visit the area is in August or September. The weather is favorable to travel from April to the beginning of November too. The climate of Lhasa city is unique. It is mild, without overly cold winters or hot summers though the temperature may exceed 84 °F (29 °C) in summer. It can also plummet to -3 °F (-19 °C) in winter. Solar radiation is extremely strong in Tibet because of the high altitude. The air is too thin to keep the warmth or cold for a long time: the reason the falls and rises of the temperature may be so fast.
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Where To Stay
- Jardin Secret Hotel (No 60 West Jinzhu Road , 850015 Lhasa), five-star, rates from $150 (¥ 1000). Jardin Secret Hotel faces the Lhasa Train Station and the Tibetan Museum. The Norbulingka (Garden of Treasures), is ten minutes from Jardin Secret Hotel by car and the Potala Palace is 3 miles away. There are 200 rooms in the hotel.
- Lhasa Hotel (1 Middle Minzu Road, 850008 Lhasa ), four-star, rates from $85 (¥ 560). Lhasa Hotel is located next to Tibet Museum, 2.5 miles (4 km) from Potala Palace. Lhasa Hotel is 60 km from Lhasa Gonggar Airport and 4 miles (7 km) from Lhasa Train Station. Hotel has 410 rooms.
Research and book hotels in or near Lhasa, China
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Sightseeing. This to see in the area include: Barkhor Street, Yaowang Hill, Tsurphu Monastery, Tibet Museum, Sera Monastery, Ramoche Monastery, Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace, Nietang Buddha, Lhasa River, Jokhang Monastery, Ganden Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Chakpori Hill (Yao Wang Shan).
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Useful Visitor Information and Tips
Traveling individually to Tibet is officially not allowed. Aside from visas for China, travelers to Tibet must also obtain permits from the Tibetan Tourism Bureau. Tibet travel permits are easily organized by the travel agencies working on your other travel arrangements for getting to Tibet.
Jokhang Temple schedule: 8:00 AM-6:30 PM (entrance for tourists afternoon only). At 2:00 PM monks meet on the balcony of the second floor to debate religious doctrine.
Taking photographs of art objects inside the Jokhang is discouraged.
Admission fee: $10 (¥70) per person (2011).
At an altitude of 11,450 ft (3,490 metres), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. Altitude sickness is real and can be dangerous. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with tolerance to altitude sickness. Preventive measures to alleviate symptoms and transition include (consult your doctor for any of the recommendations below):
- 1. Diamox tablets, should start taking it before travel, consult your doctor;
- 2. Drinking plenty of water, dehydration makes altitude sickness worse;
- 3. Oxygen, a small bottle of oxygen can help you in the worst transition period.
- 4. Chewing coca leaves or drinking coca tea.
For information about current vaccination policies, requirements and recommendations go to site.
Lhasa is located in the Lhasa Prefecture where many other culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites are located. One of them is the Potala Palace situated on the Red Hill of central Lhasa. It is the highest ancient palace in the world, reaching 12,360 ft (3,767 m). Potala named after a holy hill in South India. The name is a Sanskrit word meaning "Abode of the Avalokitevara (Buddha of Mercy)." Legend has it that in the 7th century, to greet his bride princess Wen Cheng of China, the Tibet King Songtsen Gampo built a nine-story palace with a thousand rooms up on the Red Hill and named it Potala. Later, with the collapse of the Songtsen Gampo Dynasty, the ancient palace was almost destroyed during wars. What we can see nowadays is the architecture of the Qing Dynasty (1644 BC- 1911 BC). There is also the Norbulingka Palace located at the west side of Lhasa, a short distance of Potala Palace. Norbulingka covers an area of 89 acres (36 ha). The palace is known for its beautiful garden.
Jokhang Temple is the place in Tibet where major Buddhist ceremonies are held. One of them is the Great Prayer Festival (Monlam) established in 1409 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Geluk tradition. Monlam is the greatest religious festival in Tibet. Its main purpose is to pray for the long life of holy Gurus of all traditions, for the survival and spreading of the Dharma and for the world peace (one of the beliefs in Buddhism is that communal prayers help live everyone in harmony). Monlam falls on 4th -11th day of the 1st Tibetan month of Tibetan calendar. Thousands of monks (from the three main monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Ganden) gather for chanting prayers and performing religious rituals at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
Petty theft is the most prevalent type of crime in the area. Pickpockets target tourists at sightseeing destinations, open-air markets, airports, and stores. Barkhor is one the most severely affected areas.
The U.S. Embassy may have limited ability to provide assistance if problems arise. For example, the Chinese government may not even authorize the travel of the official U.S. personnel to certain areas of Tibet.
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