About Temples of Lhasa

Questions that came up regarding the research published in Temples of Lhasa (Serindia 2005):

1 Is Tandruk monastery older than the Lhasa Jokhang?
As Prof. Per Soerensen has shown in his important study of Tandruk monastery, "Thundering Falcon" (Vienna 2005), there is a Tibetan tradition that claims Tandruk, not the Lhasa Jokhang was the first Buddhist temple constructed in Tibet. Tibetan tradition implies that Lhasa Jokhang imply that the Jokhang was started first, but in order to complete the work, 12 temples had to be erected at strategic positions to pin down a demoness, of which Tandruk was one. So according to these sources, the Jokhang construction may have begun first, while Tandruk may have been completed first. However, Prof. Soerensen's study makes clear that there may have been earlier, different traditions that have been superseeded. Unfortunately, unlike at the Jokhang, nothing of great age has survived at Tandruk. There are also no contemporary sources available for the founding of Tandruk. Therefore the age of Tandruk remains unproven, but according to Tibetan tradition both Tandruk and Lhasa Jokhang belong to the first Buddhist temples erected in Tibet.

2 When did Lhasa become the capital of Tibet?
Some people have doubted that Lhasa can be called a capital city prior to the Fifth Dalai Lama's reign. However, Tibetan tradition presents us with detailed descriptions of the Lhasa court of emperor Songtsan Gampo in the second quarter of the 7th century. Indeed, there is every indication that the Fifth Dalai Lama himself saw his transformation of Lhasa as administrative capital for Tibet as re-establishing the golden age of Lhasa as sacred city serving as capital of a religious king (Dharma Raja, Tib. Choegyal). From the Tibetan Annals and Tang Annals we know that the Tibetan kings travelled with their courts, and established summer and winter camps. That indicates a moving capital, similar to the Mongolian tradition under the early Jebtsun Dampa Hutuktu-s, when the capital moved around the country. During the reign of Songtsen Gampo (d. ca. 650) Lhasa was probably a temporary capital and important center, given the number of important monuments erected there during his reign. Tibetan researchers such as Minyak Choekyi Gyentsen claim that the king's royal camp, was established at Marpori, location of today's Zhoel quarter.

3 What is the square medallion bracket?
The square medallion bracket is the term I have coined to describe one type of pre-16th century bracket, part of the Tibetan post-and-lintel system. It is not, as some misunderstood, any bracket with a squarish design in the centre. The square medallion bracket is built to different proportions than the standard, post-16th century bracket, and has peculiar geometric carved designs. The Chinese researcher Su Bai was the first to have published about the shift in bracket design during the centuries. Important monuments with the square medallion feature include the monasteries of Kyormolung near Lhasa and the Choegyalpuk chapel in the Potala, which Tibetan tradition identifies with Songtsan Gampo's 7th century meditation cave. In contrast, the brackets of the Lhasa Jebumgang temple are typical post-16th century brackets, with a three-dimensional inset consisting of a separate piece of carving concealing a (no longer extant) bundle of blessings and relics.

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