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Fire Breaks Out in Jokhang Compound in Tibet’s Capital Lhasa

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View of Tibet's Drepung 'Bras-spungs, Zhaibung' Monastery, on the outskirts of Lhasa, and the surrounding mountains

View of Tibet's Drepung 'Bras-spungs, Zhaibung' Monastery, on the outskirts of Lhasa, and the surrounding mountains. Photo: Nat Krause.

Fire broke out Saturday evening in a temple compound in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, setting at least one building ablaze but sparing the central Jokhang cathedral, a major pilgrimage site, Tibetan sources said.

The cause of the blaze, which began at about 6:40 p.m. local time and was later contained, is still unclear, and there are no reports of casualties.

The extent of damage to the ancient structures, religious images, and other treasures in the Tsuklhakhang compound is still unclear.

Reached by RFA’s Tibetan Service, sources in the Tibetan capital reported that police and fire brigades responded quickly to the blaze in the Tsuklhakang, parts of which date back to the seventh century.

Meanwhile, Tibetan social media gave conflicting accounts of where the fire broke out, with some sources reporting the blaze began just outside the compound or in a small courtyard inside its walls.

Another source placed the start of the fire at a small chapel, the Lhamo Khang, in an upper story of the larger building that reportedly burned.

Chinese authorities in Tibet moved quickly to shut down news and images of the blaze circulating online, warning that anyone caught spreading news of the fire would be jailed, sources said.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lhasa’s Jokhang cathedral houses the famous Jowo statue of Shakyamuni Buddha , brought to Tibet in the seventh century by the Chinese bride of the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo.


Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenor Taring. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

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