China bans incense-leaf burning practice before Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet.

(, Nov18’20) – Ceremonial burning of juniper twigs amid chanting of prayers, known as sangsol, has been integral part of Tibetan religious practice for thousands of years. But now China has banned this practice outside the Jokhang temple in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, with authorities citing concerns over air pollution, reported the Tibetan Service of Nov 17, citing local sources.

Given China’s ongoing Sinicization of religion move and the reason cited for the Jokhang action, the ban could be extended to other religious sites as well.

Coming to the present development, the report said that the move tightened restrictions over worship already in place at the world-famous pilgrimage site. A square in front of the Jokhang had recently been fenced off to prevent public prayer and other displays of devotion following construction work on areas just outside the temple, the report noted.

Following the latest ban order, two large structures set up in front of the Jokhang for performing sangsol on festive occasions have been closed, the report said.

“Chinese authorities in Lhasa claim that the indiscriminate burning of these offerings is harmful to the environment and pollutes the air,” one source was quoted as saying, adding Chinese officials had held workshops since the beginning of November to raise public awareness of the issue.

“They have conducted propaganda programmes on the roadside near the offering sites in front of the Jokhang, where official banners urge what they call the responsible practice of Sang Sol supported by ‘individual awareness and ‘education.’”


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