In the 7th Century, a Chinese princess named Wen Cheng agreed to marry a Tibetan warlord named Songtsan Gambo. Songtsan expected to gain strength and more territory with this alliance with China. He was a devout Buddhist as was Wen Cheng.
Princess Wen Cheng lived in Chang’an, now called Xi’an the capital of the Tang Dynasty, approximately 2000 miles away from Yarlung, the capital of the Tubo Kingdom, and where she would live as King Songtsan’s second wife. The journey to Yarlung took a year, and through some fabled country and mountain passes.
The Sun and Moon Mountain marked the end of the Tang Kingdom and the beginning of the Tubo Kingdom. From the summit of the mountain, she looked toward her future, and she saw barren mountains and icy peaks, behind her were the willow forests and gardens of her girlhood. It is said her stepfather gave her a mirror, and advised her to look into it each time she grew homesick or weary. As she gazed upon her future, and turned to look at her past, she drew her mirror from a silk pouch, and she saw nothing. Homesick and distraught she did not return to her carriage, but rode a horse instead, crying all the way down the mountain. Tears filled a river called Daotang, which means Backward Flowing. Today the river is known as the Weichi
Along with a caravan of servants and silks, her astrologer, and guides, she carried her dowry— Jowo Shakyamuni—a golden statue of the Buddha said to have been made in Buddha’s lifetime. It is life size—nearly five feet tall. It bounced along just as she in its own carriage, ahead of hers. The rough talk of soldiers mixed with the nays and whinnies of animals caravanned with them—a moving string of bright beads across the massive hump of ancient China. The world itself was 1300 years newer, and the colors she saw must have been brighter, and the night sky pierced with brilliance that in this time might only be felt in poetry. A mix of elements and emotions for the child bride to consider. How the young bride might have cried as she huddled in the carriage as the night crept in, and the tapestry of stars swept over the soft bleats of horse and snores of soldiers as they made camp. Night after night—so far from home—her small body the sentient part of the binding of China to this faraway kingdom. What stories did her astrologer tell her? What confidences did she utter to her maids?
Songtsan Gambo was a warrior but he had some common sense. This must have comforted Princess Wen Cheng The warrior and his men met her about half way where Songtsan built a temple called Baihai Palace. It lay between two lakes at the source of the Yellow River. This is where the couple married. And all the while the Buddha rode along in an oxen-motored cart.
Songtsan revered the Buddha statue and to please his wife—and her stepfather—he intended to build a temple to house it to share it with his people. They decided to build it in Rasa. Rasa is an old name for Lhasa. To choose a location he tossed a ring into the air. It landed onto a pool of water—and so construction began. However, the pool of water turned into a lake and continued to flood—which stopped the building process.
Some believed that the whole of the Tibetan plateau was a demon in repose—the very heart of which laid beneath the temple site. This to Wen Cheng explained the flooding, and according to legend—the pool of water—now a sizable lake was ordered filled with earth, and goats worked as beasts of burden, faithfully lugging loads of dirt onto the lake, over which the Jokhang was built There were twelve temples inside the Jokhang—and these were built upon Wen Cheng’s insistence to stop the evil flow of energy from the joints and bones of the demon.
The largest temple room in the Jokhang temple, housed the invaluable statue of the Buddha.
The Jokhang Temple was the most sacred of temples in all of Tibet.
The Jokhang Temple is being destroyed by the Chinese government.