The Jokhang was founded during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo. The oldest part of the temple was built in 652. Over the next 900 years, the temple was enlarged several times with the last renovation done in 1610 by the Fifth Dalai Lama. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards attacked the Jokhang in 1966 and for a decade there was no worship in Tibetan monasteries. Renovation of the Jokhang began in 1972, and was mostly complete by 1980.
The blaze started late on Saturday. No casualties were reported. The extent of the damage remains unclear. Some accounts shared on Chinese social media suggested the blaze had broken out in a side hall or annex, possibly a housing area, which was not a part of the main building. State media said there was no damage to cultural relics. The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Reports say that Chinese authorities quickly tried to block footage and images of the fire appearing on social media. News of major incidents in Tibet are controlled in China. The fire comes as Tibetans celebrate Losar, their traditional new year, which began on Friday. The temple was closed to the public on Saturday.