Lhasa’s Inner Sanctum

Like many other historic religious structures, Trode Khangsar is just outside the perimeter of the Barkor (bar skor). The Barkor is the innermost circumambulation or pilgrimage route as it encircles the Tsuklhakhang temple in the center of historical Lhasa. This is Lhasa’s holiest temple, which hosts the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue.3 The Tsuklhakhang is the center of Lhasa’s mandala-like design, which the city has followed since the 7th century when the king Songtsen Gampo extended the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet.

This mandala design included various shrines in groups of four just outside the perimeter of the Barkor in a sparse, peripheral arrangement. In particular there were Rigsum Lhakhang4 of four cardinal directions (phyogs bzhi'i rigs gsum mgon po lha khang), another set of Rigsum Lhakhang for the four intermediate directions, and four protector houses (btsan khang). Although Trode Khangsar is not included in this group of four, it exists in the same zone, being just outside the perimeter of the Barkor. As for the exact location of Trode Khangsar, it is just south of the Barkor, approximately 200 meters south of the Tsuklhakhang. From a Tibetan pilgrimage (GCJ, 33) guide:

Trode Khangsar is also orally pronounced “Pute Khangsar.” It is also referred in shortened form as Trokhang. On the east side of Dagpo Drumpa [mansion] in the Pal Ling [neighborhood] you will encounter this tsen khang [protector house].

Encompassing all of historic Lhasa is the Lingkor (gling skor), the outermost circumambulation route. It encircles the Barkor on the southeast side and extends far to the northwest to encompass the majestic Potala palace. The Lingkor passes by an access way on the southeast corner of its loop that leads north to Trode Khangsar, which is accessible at about 100 meters. Pilgrims visiting Lhasa for the last 300 years have been circumambulating Trode Khangsar whether they were aware of its existence and significance or not.

3 This statue was crafted in India, allegedly within several hundred years after Buddha passed away. It was later brought to China. During the 7th century, it was brought to Tibet by the King Songtsen Gampo’s Chinese wife.

4 Rigsum refers to the “Three Lords,” who are the main bodhisattvas: Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani. In particular each embodies all of the Buddhas’ compassion, wisdom and power respectively. There is a saying that without all three of these there is no Buddha. These particular shrines are dedicated to these three bodhisattvas.