Located in the center of old Lhasa city, Jokhang Monastery is the prime seat of the Gelugpa (Yellow) Branch of Tibetan Buddhism. It was originally built in 647 AD.
It is said the site was chosen personally by the wife of King Songtsan Gampo, the Tang Princess Wen Cheng. The princess perceived Wutang, a lake in Lhasa, to be a “devil’s heart”, a source of evil, and had it filled in and the temple built on the site to counteract evil forces. It was built by craftsmen from Tibet, China and Nepal and thus features different architectural styles. Jokhang means "House of Buddha".
Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.
In the central hall is the Jokhang’s oldest and most precious object, a life-sized sitting statue of Sakyamuni when he was 12 years old. This was carried to Tibet by Princess Wen Cheng from her home in Chang' an in 700 A.D. It is a gilded statue adorned with many jewels, in an elaborate setting. Pilgrims have prostrated themselves in front of this statue for centuries. It is the most sacred statue in the eyes of the Tibetan people.
In front of the Jokhang stands an old and withered willow tree said to have been planted by Princess Wen Cheng. In front of the willow is a 3-meter-high pillar, a treaty stone, recording the alliance between the King of Tibet and the Emperor of China in 823 AD.
The roof of the Jokhang offers splendid views of the Barkhor (pilgrims' circuit) and the Potala Palace. The golden roofs are superbly crafted with many birds, beasts, bells and other intricate figures.
Every Tibetan New Year, which falls some time between January and March, according to the Tibetan Calendar, the Jokhang hosts the Great Prayer Festival. This festival was first celebrated in 1409 under the leadership of Tsong Khapa, and has been held annually since the time of the fifth Dalai Lama. During the festivals, thousands of monks come to perform colorful religious activities in and around the Jokhang, and there is much celebration throughout Lhasa.