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Barkhor Street

Barkhor Street

Barkhor Street - Brief Introduction

The Barkhor Street lies in the center of the old city of Lhasa. It is the most well-preserved street in the extant streets of Lhasa. The Barkhor Street is the place gathering the religion, economy, culture, ethnic handicrafts as well as the Tibetan local traditions and customs. Also it's a must-go place for the tourists while having trip in Lhasa.

The Barkhor Street is round like a big clock with the magnificent Jokhang Temple as the axis of the clock. Barkhor Street is not named after its shape. In Tibetan, "Barkhor" means the street surrounding the Jokhang Temple (Built in the middle of the 7th cnetury). According to the Tibetan Buddhist perspective, it is called "zhuanjing" ("zhuanjing" means circumanbulating, it is a religious activity in Tibetan Buddhism which means to walk along a certain route and pray all the way) to walk one round centered by the Jokhang Temple to pay religious homage to the statue of Sakyamuni which is enshrined in the Jokhang Temple.

Barkhor Street - Relics

There are many relics around the Barkhor Street. At the intersection of the round route and the road, there stands a column called "Jue-ya-da-jin". In Tibet, when the girls are 15 years old, they will come to the column and take part in the growing-up ceremony to celebrate their growing-up.

Walk along the circumanbulation until No.24 of the north Barkhor Street. Here is a common two-storied building called "Qu-jie-po-zhang". It is the famous Fawang Palace, one of the four famous palaces and also the first house on the Barkhor Street. The Fawang Palace is a simple residence for Songsten Gampo before the construction of Jokhang Temple was finished.

Come out of the Fawang Palace and walk ahead. You will find a small open square in front of a white pagoda. The white pagoda was once for the businessmen to burn incense for the God of Wealth who could protect them and help them make a lot of money.

North of the white pagoda stands a three-floored building with red-grass-covered walls. This is the Yamen (a government office in feudal China) established in the Qing Dynasty for the resident ministers in Tibet. From the Yongzheng period, resident ministers in Qing Dynasty were always dispatched to Tibet. There were altogether 84 resident ministers dispatched to Tibet from that time to the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.

At the end of the circumambulation, visitors can see the relics of Song-qu-re which is quite important in the history of the Tibetan Buddhism. It is a small, flat and open square outside the south gate of the Jokhang Temple. In the past, when prayer meetings were held in the Jokhang Temple, examinations to choose the first-rate Gexi (Gexi was a degree for the Buddhists in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism) were held in the Song-qu-re square.

Along the Barkhor Street, there are over 120 crafts shops and more than 200 stalls selling different handicrafts with Tibetan ethnic characteristics. You can also get the precious sculpture crafts which have a long history in Tibet.


White Pagoda of Barkhor Street Handicrafts of Barkhor Street Praying at Barkhor Street

Barkhor Street - Circumanbulation

The circumanbulation of the Barkhor Street is the most important circumambulation in the mind of the Tibetans. When the time for circumambulating comes at dusk, people come from different places, some from the northern Tibet, some from the Kangba Mountain while some from the Barkhor Street, begin to walk along the round route clockwise after a moment of stir. They do it at the same without any promissory even though they do not know each other. Their piety to their belief can be seen.

Barkhor Street - History

Barkhor Street was built with the construction and development of the Jokhang Temple. In the 6th century, Songsten Gampo decided to build the Jokhang Temple and to supervise the construction, Songsten Gampo lived near the Wotang Lake together with his ministers and queens.

To express respects to their king, Songsten Gampo, people built houses on the north, east, southeast and southwest sides of the lake for him. These were the four original palaces of Barkhor Street and were also the earliest buildings of Barkhor Street.

After the building of Jokhang Temple was finished, many monks came here and 18 family-typed architectures were constructed around the Jokhang Tmeple for the pilgrims or the businessmen coming from afar.

Several hundred years later, particularly in the 15th century, the Jokhang Temple became the center for spreading Buddhism. Some dormitories for monks, religious schools and small temples also appeared around the Jokhang Temple. Some pious Buddhists even left their hometowns and settled down around the temple. As a result, some service facilities, stalls and manual workshops were established.

Until the liberation, the peripheries of the Barkhor Street were still very broad. The noble always built their mansions in the peripheries of the Barkhor Street. So the Barkhor Street had become the epitome of the all-embracing social life of Lhasa. And the Barkhor Street became the collecting and distributing center of Tibetan goods and materials as well as the "encyclopedia" of the Tibetan ethnic culture.