Lhasa's Barkor Street: Destination for Pilgrims


The busy Barkor Street in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, photo from China Tibet Information Center.

Barkor Street is synonymous with Lhasa's old town. It in fact refers not only to the narrow street encircling the Jokhang Temple, but also its surrounding areas steeped in Tibetan life. Barkor Street may be the most authentic place displaying the character of Lhasa. It is said that Barkor Street was formed by the feet of pilgrims circumambulating the Jokhang Temple, even before the city of Lhasa itself was built. Today's Barkor Street is still a sacred destination for pilgrims. This area has been the largest trade center in Tibet for hundreds of years. Visitors and pilgrims from various places gather here, making the busy trading streets somewhat solemn.

The rebuilding of Barkor Street was an important part of Lhasa's urban construction. The rebuilding was done in line with the principle of "complete reproduction of the original." So, the typical Tibetan buildings and lifestyle are still well-preserved in this 1.3 sq-km area. Walking on Barkor Street, you may feel the city to be quite modern and international. Foreign visitors are a common sight, but the distinctive Tibetan buildings remind you that this is Lhasa, a place where people can see the harmonious co-existence between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern.

The rebuilding and protection of the old part of a city is a problem in urban development for most countries. Development needs to be bold and resolute, needs to remove the old and create the new, but it also requires preservation and protection.

Every city has its unique history and cultural traditions. In the course of development, cities should cherish their own special cultural heritage. This heritage is not only the pride of individual cities, it is also part of the universal memories and wealth of mankind.

Aristotle once said, "Men come together in cities in order to live: they remain together in order to live the good life." Classical buildings are the memories of the city's spirit, culture and history. They pose for us the questions: What was the city's origin, and what will it become?

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