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Jokhang Temple, Front of the kora (early dawn)
The sun rises behind the Jokhang Temple. In the midnight and pre-dawn dark, the kora is magnificently quiet. As the sky lightens, yet long before the sun casts light on the temple's front, Tibetans walk the kora, stopping their circumambulation to light incense in one of five kilns or to prostrate at the front of the Jokhang.

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Looking Down the Entrance to the Kora, northwest corner of the kora
Taken just steps into the entrance of the kora, this image looks at the northwestern corner where the main lane turns east and is met by a small adjoining alley from the north. At this corner, vendors sell yogurt, milk and bread each morning.

Windows of the Jokhang Temple, (two photos) north side of the kora

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Homes Above Shops, north side of the kora

North Kora, north side of the kora
Like many buildings along the kora, this one has a store on the ground floor and homes above. The stone work--large stone mortared by smaller chipped ones--is traditionally Tibetan. Like most Tibetan structures in Lhasa, prayer flags top this building. Tibetan Buddhists believe that each flutter of a prayer flag releases the prayer printed on it into the cosmos.

The Large Prayer Wheel House, (two photos) north side of the kora
Halfway down the north side of the kora, there is a small temple encasing a large prayer wheel. A row of small prayer wheels is mounted on the square building's outer walls. Many Tibetans turn the large prayer wheel thrice, then turn all the smaller wheels on the outside to earn religious merit.

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North Kora, north side of the kora
This house is one of the older houses in Lhasa. In its main entrance (at far left of the frame), beneath the large window, there is now a Muslim tea shop serving noodle soup and tea.

Vanished Building, northeast corner of the kora
This building, and several others near it, were razed in mid-1995. A several storied structure is replacing it, set farther back from the kora.

Alley to the Jokhang, east side of the kora
Between buildings on the west side of the eastern part of the kora is a narrow alley that leads back to a temple, and a rear entrance to the Jokhang. At the back of the Jokhang, the alley turns north, emerging beside the large prayer wheel. Tibetans always walk the kora in a clockwise direction. This alley is sometimes used as a short cut, when Tibetans want to get to the tromsikang market or other place on the north side of the kora without contradicting the proper religious directions, but don't want to walk the long way round to get to a point just behind them.

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New Buildings, east side of the kora
Both the center and right hand buildings were completed in the summer of 1994, replacing older, lower, smaller buildings. The building on the left, while painted traditional white, is not that old, evidenced by its straight (not inward sloping) walls, and use of cinder block. Fewer and fewer of the new buildings in Lhasa are being painted traditional white, and embellishes and woodwork around the windows diminishing. As well, the seemingly small increase from two or three stories to four stories is transforming the narrow back alleys (and rooms on lower floors) from bright open spaces, to dark, cavernous ones.

South Side of the kora
The ubiquitous metal stalls echo and frame the square windows of the houses and buildings. The kora and area around it has become valuable retail property. Stores set out goods on these stalls, and also let them to other vendors. In the evening, Tibetans and Chinese come with bundles of produce, clothes and other goods, and sell from tarps placed down in the center of the kora path itself.

bLa-brang-rning-pa House, south side of the kora
Once a house of nobility, this building has long been divided into apartments. The dark band of red at the top, dotted with white paint, was, in previous eras, a mark reserved for certain noble houses.

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Marks of Modern Lhasa (electric pole and house corner), south side of the kora

Incense Kiln and Prayer Pole, south side of the kora
During the day, vendors sell clothes, thankas (religious paintings), prayer flags, sculptures, shoes and all kinds of other goods at the metal stalls surrounding this incense kiln and all along the kora. On auspicious days, such as full moons and holidays, many people burn juniper in the kilns, filling the air with white smoke. The south side of the Jokhang is at rear.

Noble's House, south side of the kora
One side of this massive, old house looks north onto one side of the Jokhang Temple. Like the bLa-brang-rning-pa House nearby, this was also a house of nobles.

The Jokhang Temple, 8:15 am, July 1994

Images and text © 1995, Amina Tirana

Kora Introduction | Kora II | Exhibitions