by Amina Tirana

The Jokhang, Tibetan Buddhism’s most sacred temple, stands broad and low in the heart of Lhasa, the locus of daily visits and once in a lifetime pilgrimages. From earliest dawn to last light, Tibetans arrive from nearby neighborhoods and the region’s far mountains to worship at the Jokhang. They circumambulate the temple on a sacred path known as the kora, burn juniper as incense, leave offerings, and perform other rituals in order to earn religious merit for the next life. The area around the Jokhang, known as the barkhor, is the heart of Lhasa where Tibetans live, socialize and shop. Houses and stores fill the spaces between the temple buildings, incense kilns and prayer poles, transforming the holy kora into an enclosed lane of constant movement, a clock-wise flowing stream of worshippers, residents, vendors and shoppers. Mornings, however, are the most sacred in the barkhor, when a quiet purposefulness of worship permeates the protracted dawn. Faith is an essential element of Tibetan character and identity, if anything reinforced by the political turmoil of the twentieth century. From young to old in Tibet, faith is as strong as ever.

Morning in the Barkhor: Photographs of Tibet was on display at the Council on Foreign Relations from 15 September – 15 December 2004.

The Jokhang Temple





Prostrations on the kora

Pilgrimage to Lhasa

Pilgrimage to Lhasa

Back alley

Buying amber and jewelry

At dawn

Turning prayer wheels


Prayer wheel temple

Jokhang’s Roof

Taking a rest
© Amina Tirana