Barkhor -- the oldest street in Tibet, is the symbol of Lhasa, so if you travel in Lhasa, you won't miss visiting it!
Barkhor refers to Lhasa's pilgrimage circuit, a quadrangle of streets that surrounds the Jokhang and some of the old buildings adjoining it. It is an area unrivalled in Tibet for its fascinating combination of deep religiosity and push-and-shove market economics. Barkhor is both the spiritual heart of the holy city and the main commercial district for Tibetans.
The center of the old Lhasa, Barkhor is a circular street, which is the oldest street in Lhasa and remains very traditional. It is a place where Tibetan culture, economy, religion and arts assemble and a place to which a visit must be paid. It was said that in the seventh century when Songtsen Gampo, the first Tibetan King (617 or ?-650) who unified Tibet, married Chinese Princess Wencheng and Nepal princess Tritsun. Later Princess Tritsun built Jokhang Temple to accommodate the Jowo Sakyamuni aged 12 brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng.
Barkhor is the road which pilgrims tramped out around Jokhang Temple through centuries. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night. They comprise most of Lhasa's floating population. Careful visitors may find there are 4 columns, on which colorful scripture streamers are hung flying over the street.
All pilgrims walk outside of them to show respect. The custom started in Tubo period (633-877). To the west of the north street of Barkhor, there is a juniper hearth, in front of which ceremony will be held annually to hail Maitreya (Buddha of the Future). Tibetans also pray before the hearth to expect fortune in the next year. A yamun, which used to be the office of Lhasa magistrate, squats nearby. A small lane northward nearby leads to a market, which has longest history in Lhasa. There is a three-story temple, which was set up in the Tubo period, and its pantheon still remains Tubo style after many renovations.
It was said that Tibetan characters were invented in the temple. Barkhor, the sacred pilgrim path, is also a market place where shaggy nomads, traders, robed monks and chanting pilgrims join together. Shops and stalls, clustering, sell printed scriptures, cloth prayer flags and other religious vessels, jewelry, Tibetan knives, ancient coins and etc.
Tours inclusive of visiting the Barkhor Street, Lhasa