Morning visit to Jokhang Temple, Lhasa


This morning began with a lecture on the main themes, characters and symbols of Tibetan Art and religious life. It is a a great way to help you understand what you will see and hear whilst in Lhasa. However, it quickly becomes evident that there is so much history, and so many layers and people that it would be impossible to remember everything, or maybe it was just the lack of oxygen. Still, I knew more than I did when I got up that morning.

The Barkhor is an area of narrow streets and a public square, located around the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. It is a great place to watch people, as pilgrims come from all over Tibet and beyond. The various dress and hair styles of the different clans people is quite fascinating. Small shops line the streets selling all manner of souvenirs from prayer wheels to beads.


Pilgrims sit and watch other pilgrims, or rest their tired feet, when they catch your eye they will invariably smile. Today the square is busy, yet it has a peaceful serenity to it, but it has not always been this way. The Barkhor has been the site of many protests. When the 14th and current Dalai Llama won the Nobel Peace Prize, his supporters threw tsampa ( a Tibetan staple, like flour), to celebrate. When the government denounced the prize, the protesters were arrested.


The colour prayer flags adorn the square, meant to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. Their various colours represent the six aura colours emanated from the Lord Buddha when he achieved enlightenment under the Bodi Tree. The five colours represent the elements: blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.If you purchase some as souvenirs. you should not let them touch the ground, and they should be kept together in a line, rather than taken apart. Traditionally they are made of cotton, but as with many things, they are now made of synthetic fibres more often than not.


The oldest part of temple was built in 652 by Songtsen Gambo, and in 2000 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


When not at prayer, the monks leave their robes and head dresses folded up in the Prayer Hall. The pointed peaks of the hoods reminded me of Harry Potter, which always seems to be on in our house!

Janet Mactavish