Pilgrims come from every corner to Jokhang Temple. It is the most sacred site in Tibetan Buddhism.
It was built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to promote the Buddhist religion. Between 642 and 653, Nepalese builders constructed the so-called Tsuglagkhang. It housed a statue of Jowo Mikyö Dorje (head of the Kagyu school in Tibetan Buddhism) - a gift from Princess Bhrikuti, Songtsen Gampo’s first wife. Jowo Mikyö Dorje was later brought to the Ramoche Temple (also in Lhasa) and replaced by the statue of Jowo Shakyamuni at the age of twelve. Princess Wencheng, Songtsen Gampo’s second wife, brought the statue of Jowo Shakyamuni from the capital of the Tang Dynasty. The temple became known as Jokhang Temple - "the house of jowo".
Architecture & Art
The architecture of the Jokhang Temple is a mix of Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese architecture styles. It is made of wood and stone and has three storeys.
The main entrance faces towards Nepal - in recognition of Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal, who lent the money for the construction of the temple.
There is an inner circumambulation walkway (Nangkhor), where you see pilgrims walking in the clockwise direction - honouring their deities by praying sacred mantras. The walkway is lined with 365 prayer wheels.
Restoration works already started in the 8th century and went on during the temple’s long history, including a major restoration after the damages during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976). The temple was reopened in 1979. Since 2000, the Jokhang Temple is UNESCO world heritage.
Besides the main sanctuary, the statue of Jowo Shakyamuni, the temple also houses interesting murals that are worth a visit. And music instruments brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng.
If possible, you should visit the temple relatively early in the morning. Otherwise, there are not only pilgrims but a lot of tourists. As you can imagine, the place loses a bit of its holy spirit if it is such crowded with tourists.
Note: In February 2018, a fire broke out in the temple. From the information that is released in media, it is not entirely clear where exactly the fire broke out and what the level of damage was/is. From local travel operator websites, it seems like visiting the Jokhang Temple is still possible without any major limitations.