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Jokhang Monastery


The Jokhang Monastery, called "Cholakang" in the Tibetan language, originally referred to a hall for keeping Buddhist sutras. It was first built in the 7th century. It is said that the place was originally a stretch of swamp. The Nepalese Princess Khir-btsun wanted a building to enshrine the life-size statue of Sakyamuni at the age of eight, which she had brought from her hometown. However, the construction repeatedly failed, making Princess Khir-btsun extremely depressed. Soon, Princess Wencheng entered Tibet from Chang'an (present-day Xi'an). She was known to be proficient in the Buddhist doctrines as well as astronomy, geography and the Eight Diagrams. Thus, Khir-btsun went to ask Princess Wencheng for advice. The latter was very pleased to cooperate and the construction finally went smoothly. The Jokhang Monastery is a three-storey building with a courtyard and a corridor outside. In terms of structure, it adopted the girders, pillars, a system of brackets and caisson decorated with the colorful paintings, reliefs and carvings of flying Apsaras, characters, birds, animals, flowers and grasses. The paintings and carvings are straightforward and vigorous, similar to those of the temples in the Chinese hinterland. Architecturally, it also absorbed some artistic styles of Nepal and India. Various kinds of carvings are found in the halls surrounding the main hall. For example, the wood carvings on the mantle and outside porch of the Sakyamuni Hall depict a whole set of Buddhist stories. All together 108 wood carvings of male lions and Sphinxes are arrayed between the first eave and double eaves of the hall. The Sphinxes, as adornments between the eaves, are rare in the architectural art of China.

The statues of Songtsan Gambo, Princess Wencheng and Princess Khir-btsun are enshrined in the wing hall south of the Jokhang Hall. Numerous frescoes are found in the halls, but have been fumed into black by the smoke from lanterns for long time. Even though, one can still see that the ancient paintings of Tibet are lively and exquisite. In addition, the Jokhang Monastery still preserves a large number of precious cultural relics such as books, archives and musical instruments since the 7th century, including the "gold urn" granted by the Qing emperor Qianlong to implement the system of drawing lots to choose the new Dalai Lama, etc. Jokhang Monastery is a key cultural relics unit under State protection included in the World Heritage List (1978)

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