Devin Moore Tibet Travel Part 2: Early Morning in Jokhang Square

This week takes us to Lhasa, the cultural and political capital of Tibet. One side of Lhasa is typical of any rapidly expanding city, while the other side retains much of its old world charm. Pictured here is Jokhang Square in the early morning. At this time of day, not many tourists roam the winding paths of Barkhor Bazaar, a hustling and bustling market area that encircles the square. Out of big chimneys like the one you see here, incense floats toward the heavens filling the area with an earthen aroma that has a hint of pine needles. Cold mountain air bites at exposed skin, making a jacket necessary.

Devin Moore Tibet Travel Blog


Jokhang Square is named after Jokhang Temple, whose outer wall you see in the background. Jokhang Temple is a pilgrimage site for devout Tibetan Buddhists from all corners of Tibet; many Tibetans aspire to make the journey to Lhasa at least once in their life. For these Tibetan Buddhists, Jokhang Temple is to them as Mecca is to followers of Islam. Housing the only known image of the Shakyamuni Buddha known to remain in existence today, Tibetans hold this place close to their hearts. Created in his twelve-year-old likeness, it was a gift from Beijing long ago when the political situation was much different.


In the foreground you see Tibetans, both local and pilgrim, performing the Khora (to circumambulate) around Jokhang Temple in a clockwise direction. They spin prayer wheels and chant mantras of personal and religious significance. Pilgrims young and old will prostrate (throw oneself face down on the ground) in front of a shrine that sits on the other side of the tree you see on the left. Some prostrate in the surrounding alleyways of Barkhor Bazaar as streams of people navigate around them. A few devout pilgrims may even come with the goal of prostrating 100,000 times, not leaving Lhasa until they have done so. This is dedication to belief beyond anything I’ve seen.


My first trip to Tibet was my first trip overseas at all; this particular photo was taken only on a day or two after my arrival. It was a culture shock that left me questioning everything I had grown to know in the corner of the world that I call home. The memory of this picture makes me chuckle. Out of respect, tourists and locals alike should Khora around important places like the one pictured here. Otherwise you will end up like I did: a fish swimming up a raging torrent! Fortunately, Tibetans are tolerant of foreigners’ lack of understanding and seem to appreciate genuine curiosity. To me, this picture embodies the very essence of Tibetan life: a kind and charitable people carrying out a devout life amongst the harsh mountain elements.

Shane Franklin, reporter and announcer for KSMU-Ozarks Public Radio, provided this picture. Check Shane out on Facebook.

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