Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text

Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple,
by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander

JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5722, pp. 451-466.

© 2011 by Cameron David Warner, IATS, and THL

[page 451]

Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander. Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple. London: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 2010, 288 pp. $60.00 / £35.00.

Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple is a multi-authored work on the “JokhangJo khang,” which might be the most sacred, and is certainly the most famous temple in Tibet. It joins a growing rank of studies focused on particular Tibetan institutions, which are a welcome addition to our knowledge of the cultural history of Tibet. At its best moments, Jokhang approaches its subject from multiple angles, each author contributing a perspective on the temple derived from his or her own expertise. Unfortunately, the close reader will discover key pieces of information are often repeated in multiple articles, sometimes in a contradictory fashion. That said, for specialists in the history of Tibet trained in the proper use of primary and secondary sources, this is a welcome contribution to our knowledge of one of the most important places in all of Tibetan culture.

Jokhang begins with Gyurme Dorje’s introduction to the temple, transcription of an interview with the Dalai Lama, and an adaptation of Tsepön W. D. Shakabpa’s (Zhagappa Wangchuk Dedanzhwa sgab pa dbang phyug bde ldan, 1908-1989) Catalogue and Guide to the Central Temple of Lhasa (Lhaden Rasa Trülnang Tsuklakkhanggi KarchakLha ldan rwa sa ’phrul snang gtsug lag khang gi dkar chag, 1982). Tashi Tsering contributed a particularly rich chapter on the JowoJo bo Śākyamuni drawn from multiple primary sources. Heather Stoddard’s chapter provides information on three disparate topics: Wencheng Gongzhu’s (Gyaza Kongjorgya bza’ kong jo, d. 681) geomantic stones, the First Great Prayer Festival (Mönlam Chenmosmon lam chen mo), and the earliest wall paintings still extant in the temple. André Alexander contributes observations on the architecture and recent renovations to the temple drawn from his personal experience working with the Tibet Heritage Fund in LhasaLha sa. Jokhang ends with photographs of 108 statues housed in the temple collection. [page 452] Jokhang is richly illustrated with many full color photographs of the temple captured by a range of observers over the course of more than twenty years.

A brief side note should be said about the title of the book. “JokhangJo khang” is certainly the most common English name for the temple. However, in Tibetan literature, one rarely discovers JokhangJo khang as a name for the whole complex. JokhangJo khang ought to refer only to the chapel of the JowoJo bo, which even then has the proper name Central Chapel (Tsangkhang Ümagtsang khang dbus ma). Tibetan authors have preferred Rasa Trülnang TsuklakkhangRa sa ’phrul snang gtsug lag khang, or variations on it as well as a variety of other names. Authors used JokhangJo khang to refer to chapels in other monasteries and temples that happened to have a JowoJo bo. In LhasaLha sa dialect in 2001, Tibetans seemed to prefer simply Temple (Tsuklakkhanggtsug lag khang), though in 2010 I noticed some Tibetans used JokhangJo khang with me, but not with each other. Since this book is aimed at an English-reading audience, JokhangJo khang is an appropriate title, but this reader would have liked to see the authors work harder to disabuse English-speakers of their reliance on the nickname “JokhangJo khang.”

Overall, Jokhang offers some new insights into LhasaLha sa’s favorite temple and this author recommends the book to students and scholars looking for a multi-faceted synopsis of the temple. However, Tibetologists and seasoned scholars are cautioned in their use of this book in service of other projects. Occasionally secondary sources are out-of-date and critically important publications on the history of the JokhangJo khang and related subjects are omitted. Given the large differences between the chapters, I will provide a summary and review of each one separately.

Note Citation for Page

Cameron David Warner, “Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5722 (accessed ).

Note Citation for Whole Review

Cameron David Warner, “Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 451-466, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5722 (accessed ).

Bibliography Citation

Warner, Cameron David. “Review of Jokhang: Tibet’s Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, by Gyurme Dorje, Tashi Tsering, Heather Stoddard, and André Alexander.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 451-466. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5722 (accessed ).