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
Cameron David Warner, Aarhus University
JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5722, pp. 451-466
Section 5 of 7 (pp. 458-459)

“The Lhasa Jokhang” by André Alexander

André Alexander’s contribution to Jokhang is concerned with the architectural layout of the temple and the most recent renovation, which was begun in 1978 and is still continuing today. This chapter largely recapitulates the chapter on the Rasa Trülnang TsuklakkhangRa sa ’phrul snang gtsug lag khang in Alexander’s own book, The Temples of Lhasa: Tibetan Buddhist Architecture from the 7th to the 21st Centuries,15 and an earlier published paper.16 One of the best features of both publications is the architectural renderings of the layouts of the chapels and the cross sections of the temple. As further proof of the chapters as independent entities, Alexander begins with a history of the founding of the temple, which duplicates earlier passages of Jokhang, but in less detail. He continues with a discussion of Wencheng’s stone images and the Chapel of the Countenance/Face, but with no reference to Stoddard’s previous subsection on the same topic. Alexander also summarizes the contents of the inscription on the back of the JowoJo bo’s throne but I already transcribed and translated the inscription in my dissertation.17

Like the rest of the book, Alexander also persists in mistakenly referring to the Rasa TrülnangRa sa ’phrul snang as the “JokhangJo khang,” going so far as to obscure what little imperial period historical information still exists for the temple. For example under the sub-heading “Site History,” he quotes the ninth century KarchungSkar cung inscription as stating, “...shrines of the Three Jewels [i.e. Buddhism] were established by building the Jokhang of Ra-sa and so on...” (208). Obviously “JokhangJo khang” here is Alexander’s anachronistic choice to translate TsuklakkhangGtsug lag khang, since JokhangJo khang does not appear in the inscription. This translation choice actually contradicts Alexander’s own previously published paper, which contains the more accurate translation, “shrines of the Three Jewels [i.e. Buddhism] were established by building the Tsuklakhang of Ra-sa and so on...”18 Again, given how little is really known about the Rasa TrülnangRa sa ’phrul snang, and its persistently crucial role in Tibetan culture, projecting an eleventh- or twelfth-century term backwards to the early ninth century impedes future research on this site. This is a problem that would not have occurred if this book were given a different title and the editor explained to the reader in the [page 459] introduction the different names for the temple, where, when, and how they have been used.


[15] André Alexander and Matthew Akester, The Temples of Lhasa: Tibetan Buddhist Architecture from the 7th to the 21st Centuries (Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2005).
[16] André Alexander, “The Lhasa Jokhang – Is the World’s Oldest Timber Frame Building in Tibet?,” Webjournal on Cultural Patrimony 1, no. 1 (2006): 123-54.
[17] Warner, “Precious Lord,” 247-49, 395-99.
[18] Alexander, “Lhasa Jokhang,” 127.

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 ).