One of the most popular tourist attractions in Lhasa, Jokhang Temple is located on Barkhor Square. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of the historic ensemble of the Potala Palace and is a spiritual center of Lhasa. Constructed in 642 by King Songtsen Gampo, Jokhang became a famous temple after the Buddhist master Atisha taught here in the 11th century.
The site consists of four levels of labyrinthine chapels dedicated to gods and bodhisattvas; the dim light of votive candles creates a glow about the place and the smell of incense is everywhere. The entire structure is comprised of an entrance porch, courtyard and Buddhist hall surrounded by accommodation for monks and storehouses on all four sides. The buildings are of wood and stone with a gold roof, and the whole thing is an outstanding example of Tibetan Buddhist style. Jokhang also reveals influences from China, India and Nepal. More than 3,000 images of Buddha and other deities and historical figures are housed here, along with many other treasures and manuscripts. Climb to the top of the temple for a view of Jokhang Square and the pilgrims who circumnavigate the site as part of their pilgrimage. Many prostrate every few feet, while others walk slowly, chanting sacred mantras and spinning hand-held prayer wheels. The top level of Jokhang Temple also provides one of the best views of Potala Palace in the distance.
Jokhang Temple is located in Barkhor Square, in the heart of Lhasa. It’s accessible by foot but is only open to pilgrims in the morning. Wait until the afternoon to visit, but know that the Chinese government carefully controls the site, so rules can change quickly and without warning. Admission is free.