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China: Barkhor kora

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Barkhor kora | China | Asia

[Visited: April 2007]

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.

Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Walking the Barkhor kora in the early morning

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.

Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Musical nuns at the Barkhor kora

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.

Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Praying in front of the Jokhang temple: old woman
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Old Tibetan with typical prayer wheel and flowers on the Barkhor kora
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Adding juniper brances to the sangkang or incense burners on the Barkhor circuit
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Tibetan woman stopping for prayer on the Barkhor circuit
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Blocking the sunlight from her eyes on the Barkhor kora
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Praying on Barkhor square in front of the Jokhang temple
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Young Tibetan girl praying in front of the Jokhang temple
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Barkhor kora in the early morning with pilgrims
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Catering to pilgrims: Tibetan women with hot tea on the Barkhor kora
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Pilgrims on the Barkhor kora
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Man with prayer wheel walking the Barkhor kora in the early morning
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Pilgrim with traditional hat on Barkhor square
Picture of Barkhor kora (China): Keeping the fire alive: buddhists around an incense burner on the Barkhor circuit

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