Jokhang is the first Buddhist temple in Tibet, located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa. It was built during the reign of King Songsten Gampo to celebrate his marriage with Chinese Tang princess Wencheng, who was a Buddhist. The temple was called the Tsulag Khang or 'House of Wisdom' but it is now known as the Jokhang which means the 'House of the Lord'.
For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. It is in some regards pansectarian, but is presently controlled by the Gelug School. Along with the Potala Palace, it is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 'Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace' and a spiritual centre of Lhasa.
Jokhang Temple has remained a key center of Buddhist pilgrimage for centuries. It was sacked several times by the Mongols, but the building survived. In the past several centuries the temple complex was expanded and now covers an area of about 25,000 sq. meters. There is a walled enclosure in front of the Jokhang which contains some willows called the Jowo Utra ('Hair of the Jowo') and a doring or inscribed pillar erected by the Chinese in 1793 during a smallpox epidemic. It records the Sino-Tibetan treaty of 822 concluded by King Ralpacan and includes 'China and Tibet's vow of eternal peace and mutual respect of the borders of their independent states' as well as advice on hygiene measures to prevent smallpox.
TThe Jokhang is a four-story construction, with roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles. The architectural style is based on the Indian vihara design, and was later extended resulting in a blend of Nepalese and the Tang Dynasty styles. The rooftop statues of two golden deer flanking a Dharma wheel is iconic.
The Jokhang temple complex has several decorated shrines and rooms. The main hall of the temple houses the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also famous statues of Chenresig, Padmasambhava and King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides, Princess Wen Cheng (niece of Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty) and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.