The Treasury of Lives

Collection of Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts

The Lhasa Tsuklakhang, known also as the Jokhang since the eleventh or twelfth century after its sacred inner sanctum, is Tibet's holiest shrine and the heart of the ancient capital city of Lhasa. Some sources attribute the temple to the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo while others attribute it to his Nepalese wife Queen Brikuti Devi. The Jokhang was built on the model of an early Indian monastery type known as a vihara, and Newari artisans and craftsmen worked on the site; at the time the Nepalese King Narendradeva and his court lived in exile in Lhasa, known then as Rasa, "the Walled City." According to the Fifth Dalai Lama, the Jowo's throne was created by the famed Newar artist Arniko. The Jokhang houses the Jowo, a statue of the Buddha as a young prince, considered the most sacred religious image in Tibet and said to have been brought by Queen Wencheng as part of her dowry. Later histories credit Songtsen Gampo's Chinese wife Queen Wencheng with providing the geomantic planning for the Tsuklakhang but this is unlikely as she arrived in Lhasa only in 641 when the Newaris had already departed.

Over the following two centuries, Songtsen Gampo's successors celebrated the establishment of the Rasa Trulnang Tsuklakhang (the magical apparition of Rasa) as instrumental to the introduction and spread of Buddhism in Tibet. They also made renovations and additions to the Tsuklakhang complex. King Tri Songdetsen cleared the outer courtyard, and King Relpachen had Meru Nyingpa built to the rear of the temple. Since then, restoration and renovation of the Jokhang became an important activity for the rulers of Tibet. Pakmodrupa Drakpa Gyeltsen built the front extension, also called the Outer Jokhang. The Fifth Dalai Lama and his regents, including Sanggye Gyatso, added further chapels and halls. The Eighth and the Eleventh Dalai Lama and their Tsemonling regents renovated the chapels and the murals. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama repaired the chapels, halls, murals and the roofs.


Akester, Matthew. 2016. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo's Guide to Central Tibet. Chicago, IL: Serindia Publications, pp, 65-80.

Gyurme Dorje. 2009. Tibet Handbook. Bath: Footprint, pp. 84-98.

Dowman, Keith. 1988. The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide. London: Routledge, pp. 41-48.


The Demoness of Tibet

The Demoness of Tibet is a close copy of a well-known image located in the Tibet Museum in Lhasa. The landscape of Tibet is shown as the mythical demoness of Tibetan legend. Important Buddhist temples and monasteries are located across her body, spanning from the Ngari region in the west to Kham in the east. 

The Potala Palace and the Main Monuments of Lhasa

This painting shows major sites of Lhasa including the Jokhang, Potala Palace and Lukhang. The monasteries of Sera, Drepung, and Sangpu Neutok are also pictured. It is possible that the image depicts activities during Losar festivities.



Scenes from the Life of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682)

An eighteenth century painting of The Fifth Dalai Lama pictured with major scenes from his life. 

Perspective Drawing of Lhasa

This drawing shows Lhasa before 1950 from an elevated perspective. The highly detailed representation shows many major monasteries and landmarks of Lhasa.


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