Some 1300 years ago, Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) left Chang'an (present-day Xi'an in Shaanxi Province) to marry Songtsan gambo, king of the Tubo kingdom, which was located about 3000 km to the west. This pioneered amicable relations between the Tang and the Tubo,and the story of the marriage is still much talked about in areas inhabited by the Han and Tibetan peoples.
In the early 7th century, Li Yuan (later Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty) and Li Shimin (son of Li Yuan and later Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty) unified the Central Plains and founded the Tang Dynasty, setting the capital at Chang'an.The Tang was formidably powerful, and became the civilizational center of East Asia. Neighboring nations and tribes fell under the influence of the Tang Dynasty,and earnestly sought ties with the dynasty. They either claimed allegiance to the Tang or paid tributes to the imperial court. This stimulated exchanges between the Han and other nationalities.
The same period saw Songtsan Gambo gain control of the highland area in the west. After having annexed some tiny states, he founded the Tubo Kingdom and named Loso (present-day Lhasa) the capital city. Beginning in 634, he twice dispatched Gar Tongtsan to Chang'an, where the Tubo minister informed the Tang of Songtsan Gambo's desire for a daughter of the Tang emperor. Tang Emperor Taizong agreed to let Wencheng Marry the Tubo king. Accompanied by the Tubo minister, Princess Wencheng set out for the farway Tubo Kingdom. This segment of history was later turned into tales which remain an important part of Tibetan folklore.
Songtsan Gambo was very happy with his success. He went to greet the Tang Princess in Baihai (present-day Madu County in Qinghai Province) at the head of an army. He had the Baihai Nuptial Palace set up by the Zhaling and E'ling lakes, and the couple of different nationalities held their wedding ceremony there.
When the couple moved to Yushu (in present-day Qinghai Province), they were much taken with the local landscapes and pleasant weather, and spent one month in a mountain valley for their honeymoon. Princess Wencheng had carried crop and vegetable seeds to Tibet, and joined her entourage in teaching the local people how to grow crops and vegetables, grind wheat flour and make wine. When the party had to leave, the local people were grieved. As a token of gratitude, the buildings where the Tang princess stayed were still retained in the form of ruins, and her footprints were carved into rocks for worshipping. In 710 when Jincheng, another princess of the Tang Dynasty, was married into the Tubo Kingdom,she passed by the same place and had the Temple of Princess Wencheng built there. Princess Wencheng encountered a dancing and singing party in Lhasa. Seeing that Buddhism,which was at its height of influence in Tang areas, had not been spread into the Tubo Kingdom, Princess Wencheng brought out Buddhist pagodas, scriptures and statues of Buddha which she had brought into the Tubo area for construction of monasteries. Goats were mobilized to carry earth to fill in a pond for the construction of the Jokhang Monastery. Princess Wencheng and her husband, Songtsan Gambo, planted a willow tree in front of the monastery, which later was dubbed the Tang Willow, as the Uncle-Nephew Alliance Tablet (erected in 823 to mark the alliance between the Tang and the Tubo) was placed next to the tree. The statue of Sakyamuni enshrined in the center of the Main Hall of the Jokhang Monastery was the one Princess Wencheng brought into Tubo. In the side halls flanking the Main Hall are enshrined statues of Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wencheng. Their faces were heavily gilded by incessant worshipers of later generations.