Jokhang Temple#1 in Best Things To Do in Tibet
Alongside Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple is one of the most important sites in Tibet. The Jokhang Temple was built in the seventh century to promote Buddhism in Tibet, and as such earned the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Jokhang translates to "house of Buddha," or more specifically "chapel of the Jowo." And it lives up to its name. The temple houses more than 3,000 images of Buddha, deities and other historical figures in the religion, including the Jowo Shakyamuni.
Jowo Shakyamuni, or also referred to as the Jowo Rinpoche, is considered to be the most sacred image of Buddha in Tibet. It is said that the statue was sculpted by Vishwakarma – the Indian god of architecture – between the fifth and sixth century B.C., when Buddha was still believed to be alive. This has led to the belief that the Jowo Sakyamuni, as one of the earliest accounts of Buddha, is the most accurate visual representation of Buddha. Research has shown that this story is factually inaccurate, but that hasn't stopped crowds of Tibetans from coming to the temple to pray. The statue depicts Buddha the moment he reached enlightenment – legs in lotus position, one hand gesturing meditation with the other gesturing the "earth to witness."
You'll see throngs of pilgrims here, praying both inside and out. There are also accommodations on-site for monks. Travelers say witnessing this everyday way of life in Tibet makes the Jokhang Temple a rich cultural experience not to be missed. Not only that, but visitors say the temple complex is absolutely beautiful. Jokhang's design is an ornate mix of architectural elements originating in China, Nepal and India, so expect plenty of color. Travelers say it's important to keep in mind that this is a place of worship first and a tourist attraction second. Be mindful and respectful of the Tibetans that are there to pray and refrain from photography inside the temple.
You can find the Jokhang Temple in central Lhasa a little more than a mile east of Potala Palace. The temple is open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. year-round (except when Tibet closes its borders to visitors from February to early April). However, the temple is closed to foreign visitors from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. every day for prayer. Admission costs 85 yuan, or about $13.
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#2 Barkhor Street
After days of visiting temples, palaces and monasteries, treat yourself to some souvenirs on Barkhor Street. Barkhor Street is one big circular street that goes around Jokhang Temple and is filled to the brim with shops and stalls catering to those who want to take a little piece of Tibet home. Here, you can find tons of jewelry, including silver and colorful stone jewelry, traditional Tibetan wooden masks, Tibetan knives and even yak wool blankets. There are also religious articles for sale too, including Buddha statues, prayer beads, prayer wheels and beautiful Thangka, or Tibetan scroll paintings.
The presence of all these cultural souvenirs as well as the street's spiritual significance has helped earn Barkhor Street the distinction of being the "window of Tibet." Bakhor's spiritual significance is all thanks to Jokhang Temple. Part of the pilgrimage to Jokhang includes walking the circular route of Barkhor clockwise from dawn to dusk while reciting mantras, often with prayer wheels. Don't be alarmed if you see people prostrating on the ground, it's part of prayer. You will most likely see these pilgrims carrying out this tradition during your visit here. You are more than welcome to observe and take the walk yourself, but don't stop the pilgrims praying. Give them space, refrain from walking with them and don't take pictures, as the locals find it disrespectful.
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