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Jokhang means 'House of Buddha'. 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.
Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. Through night and day, there are lots of pilgrims kowtowing in front of Jokhang Temple.
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.
Jokhang Temple has architectural features originating from its Tibetan, Tang Dynasty Chinese, Nepalese, and Indian architects and craftsmen.
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.
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.
Every Tibetan New Year, which falls sometime between late January and early 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. Thousands of monks come to perform colorful religious activities in and around the Jokhang, and there is much celebration throughout Lhasa.
If you are planning to travel to Tibet, see our most popular tours for inspiration.