The Jokhang Temple

The Jokhang Temple

On August 25, 2011, in Lhasa, Temples, Tibet, by Jack Li

The Jokhang Temple (Tibetan, meaning the Buddha Temple) was built in 647 of the Tang Dynasty by the order of Sontzen Gampo in memory of Princess Chizun’s coming to Tibet. After the renovation and expansion by successive generations, it has become a large-scale complex covering more than 25,100 square metres. The Jokhang Temple is a Tibetan Buddhist temple situated at the centre of Lhasa, and holds a supreme position in Tibetan Buddhism. In 2000, the Jokhang Temple was rated the world’s heritage.

The construction of the Jokhang Temple began in the prime days of the Tubo Dynasty for the purpose of worshipping the life-size statue of Sakyamuni of the age of eight which was brought to Tibet by Princess Chizun from Nepal when she came to marry Sontzen Gampo. Now enshrined in the Jokhang Temple is the life-size statue of Sakyamuni of the age of twelve brought there by Princess Wencheng; the one of the age of eight is transferred to the Ramoche Temple.

The temple was first named the Temple of the Goat and the Earth because during its construction people used goats to carry the earth to the site. In 1409, Master Tsongkapa, founder of the Gelu Buddhist denomination, summoned all the Buddhist denominations and held the Great Prayer Festival in this temple to extol the feat of Sakyamuni. Later the temple was changed into the Jokhang Temple in honour of this event.

The Jokhang Temple is the most splendid building of the Tubo Dynasty as well as the oldest civil-structure building existing in Tibet. It combines the architectural styles of Tibet, Tang, Nepal and India, and is regarded as a paradigm of Tibetan religious buildings. The temple has four storeys; its golden arch roofs are typical Han architectural features; the decorated columns and towers are Tibetan; the 103 wooden creatures and sphinxes lined under the eaves of the second and the third storeys represent Nepalese and Indian styles. In the temple there is the one-thousand-metre long Tibetan wall-paintings “Princess Wencheng Coming to Tibet” and “Construction of the Jokhang Temple”. There are also two embroidery works of the Escort God Thangka from the Ming Dynasty, which are two of the Vajrayana Buddhas worshipped by the Gelu denomination of the Tibetan Buddhism. All of these are rare and priceless.

The Jokhang Temple Attractions: (none available)

 The Jokhang Temple Stories:

1. Lake reclamation for the construction of the temple

It is said that when the temple was constructed, it experienced serious flood several times. Princess Wencheng offered her explanation for persistent floods. She believed that the entire Tibet Plateau was a Raksasi, a legendry demon, lying on her back. This demon lied with her head towards the east and legs towards the west; the lake by which the Jokhang Temple lies was exactly the position of her heart, and so the lake water was her blood. Therefore, said the Princess, the demon’s heart must be subjugated before the temple could be completed. What is more, she suggested that an extra twelve minor temples be built on different locations so as to suppress the limbs and joints of the demon. So the lake was blocked up with earth carried up to the lake by goats. Afterwards, the Jokhang Temple was built upon the reclaimed land.

Actually, the name of the city Lhasa came from the Jokhang Temple. According to historical records, Lhasa was originally called Rasa. “Ra” means goats, and “sa” means land, together meaning “a place built by goats”. Later, due to the construction of the Buddhist temple, the store of Buddhist statues, scripture, towers and the worship of numerous Buddhist pilgrims, people regard this town as a Buddhist holy land, and renamed it “Lhasa” for “La” means Buddha in Tibetan.

2.  The Jokhang Temple and the Ramoche Temple

The two princesses, Princess Chizun and Princess Wencheng, each brought a precious statue of Sakyamuni as major dowry. Princess Chizun had with her the life-size statue of Sakyamuni of the age of eight, while Princess Wencheng arrived with the life-size statue of Sakyamuni of the age of twelve. The Tibetan people believe that these two statues are the first two that have ever come to the Tiban Plateau. In order to worship them, Sontzen Gampo ordered to build the Jokhang Temple and the Ramoche Temple

Jack Li
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