Lhasa has basically become a Chinese city with a Tibetan quarter, and does not anymore deserve the ancient label Forbidden City. The Tibetan quarter, however, invariably draws most visitors and is a lively area of the city. It is impossible to visit Lhasa without ending up in the flow of pilgrims walking the Barkhor kora or religious circuit, circling the inner heart of the Tibetan quarter around the Jokhang temple - in a clockwise direction. The circuit is very accessible with some 800 metres, and you can see all kinds of people on this circuit, from all over Tibet - some in their traditional and remarkably colourful dresses. After all, for many pilgrims from remote regions, Lhasa still is one of the ultimate destinations.
The kora is especially beautiful and interesting during the early morning and the late afternoon, not just for the light, but also because those times draw most pilgrims. Early morning is the best time to see the kora for what it really is: a constant flow of pilgrims; the market stalls are not yet open for business and it seems more serious. You can follow the flow, but also just stop and watch the flow walk by. Occasionally, you will see pilgrims prostrating, but most walk. Actually, for many pilgrims walking the kora seems to be not just a religious, but also a social activity: you can see pilgrims chatting, laughing, and answering their mobile phone. It gives a nice relaxed atmosphere to the area. The Barkhor kora takes on a more relaxed atmosphere in the afternoon when it resembles more a Mediterranean stroll, the kora basically is a one-way street.
Inevitably, you will end up at the entrance of the Jokhang temple, where most pilgrims stop to pray. In the morning, this is a great place to be, the sound of the wooden blocks being pushed by praying Tibetans just outside the temple, pilgrims walking the kora stopping for prayer in front of the temple, people gathering around the incense burners or sangkang to throw in juniper branches, without being disturbed by commerce and onlookers. During the day, people continue circling the Jokhang temple on the Barkhor kora, but then the circuit takes on a much livelier air, turning into a curious mix of commerce, buddhists and groups of tourists.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Barkhor kora (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Barkhor kora.
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