JOKHANG TEMPLE, LHASA

   
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JOKHANG TEMPLE
BARKHOR KORA MARKET
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BARKHOR RING

Like being on a Hollywood movie set, the Barkhor ring in the center of the Tibetan old town will knock your socks off. From the tinkling copper pots and glittering silver beads hanging from hundreds of tiny street stalls, to the soothing drone of hundreds of lips pursed in prayer, to the colorful costumes of this fascinating populace, to the smell of the incense burning to "clean" the air, there isn't another place on earth this enchanting. Given enough time in Lhasa, after the sights are checked off, you'll find the best thing of all is sitting on the curb with some tired pilgrims and snapping photographs of the passing worshippers twirling their prayer wheels and counting their prayer beads. This is about as exotic a place as you're going to find, but for the Tibetans it's simply their life, their way. And once you've spent a bit of time, you'll understand why every visitor to Lhasa feels the spirit of this place deep in their bones. It's a life-changing experience, maybe the best place you've ever been or ever will go, not only for the stunning esoteric majesty, but because of the effect it can have on a western life. It's not Hollywood, although the costumes and colors are reminiscent of some of the best sets of all time. It's not fake, it's not a show for tourists, it's the culture of the ages, the one culture who clings to their 7000-year-old roots, their customs and their religion no matter how many obstacles block their path. This is Tibet...while it lasts.

   
   

JOKHANG TEMPLE

 
Included on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 2000 as part of the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple is found in the Barkhor ring facing the Potala Palace. With hundreds of worshippers circling the temple (doing a kora around the temple) everyday, dozens come to prostrate themselves in front of the temple. There is no particular number of prostrations necessary, but some do as few as three or seven, while others stay for hours doing up to a thousand prostrations a day (this, they do to honor the gods and gain a better life, both this one and the next, and to pray for world peace and happiness). Even tiny children are being taught how to pray and prostrate on colorful mats. Monks in colorful reds and golds roam in and out of the temple while tourists snap their amazing shots with trembling fingers. With an area of six acres, the Jokhang Temple is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Pilgrims and other Tibetan Buddhist practitioners.

This four-story timber complex has a very mysterious interior, a series of dozens of prayer chapels and pilgrims lined up with hot yak butter thermoses to fill flickering butter lamps, money bills to offer the gods, and Hadas, long silken scarfs to drape around the necks of deities. This procession can only be seen in the morning session and if you really want to "experience" the phenomenon, rather than just "look" upon it, the three hours from 9am-noon is barely adequate. Check out the statues of King Gampo and his Napalese and Chinese wives on the second floor. Just to study the murals on these 7th century walls could take hours. Many people return to the Jokhang Temple several times. To participate and get the feel of their ferver, take some small change bills and a couple of Hada scarfs (buy in Barkhor, very inexpensive), but leave the butter to the pilgrims☺

The rooftop may be one of the most interesting places of all for the avid photographer. The golden spires and peaks, the yak-hair covered poles, the Dharma Wheel (chakra) flanked by two deer (represents Sakyamuni/Buddha), the balcony where the Dalai Lama once blessed crowds, even the traditional Tibetan roofers who sing while they tap their feet to make repairs - captivating! Maybe best of all is the breathtaking view of the Potala Palace, flanked and backed by moss green mountains, carved in shadows and capped by an ever-variable display of the fluffiest clouds on earth.

 
 

 

 

 
       

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