Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Antiquities of Zhang Zhung
by John Vincent Bellezza
Edited by Geoffrey Barstow, Mickey Stockwell and Michael White
Tibetan & Himalayan Library
Published under the THL Digital Text License.

A Typological Description and Analysis of Archaic Monuments12

III. Agricultural Structures

In the vicinity of some residential sites there are the remains of agricultural terracing and irrigation channels. Walls bounding long abandoned arable parcels (zhingsazhing sa) are common in western Tibet (including sites A-13, A-42, A-60, A-62, A-87, A-89, A-101, A-106, A-125, A-126, B-50, B-79, B-81, etc.). These former agricultural enclaves are commonly attributed to the ancient MönMon, who are supposed to have cultivated large areas of what is now only pasturage. At many erstwhile agrarian sites in western Tibet, all perennial sources of water have dried up. Defunct agricultural holdings are also evident on the shores of Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho, in the central JangtangByang thang (including sites B-4, B-6, B-55, B-57, B-58, B-59, etc.). Some of these Lake DangraDang ra sites are attributed, in the local oral tradition, to the prehistoric Zhang ZhungZhang zhung kingdom. The LungönLu sngon site (G-3) is especially noteworthy because the water it carried from deep inside the LungönLu sngon Valley flowed to Dangra KhyungdzongDang ra khyung rdzong (A-5) a fabled capital of Zhang ZhungZhang zhung.

In the face of appreciable geographical evidence, the legends circulating in Upper Tibet (west of the 87th meridian) that tell of much more widely practiced agriculture in ancient times, are undoubtedly based on an authentic collective memory. RutokRu thog, GugéGu ge, and GarSgar, in particular, were very much more heavily farmed in the past. These former arable lands are frequently encountered in proximity to ruined villages and citadels, many of which now lie totally deserted. One implication of larger locally produced grain reserves is that they may have been used to sustain larger populations. The oral traditions of RutokRu thog claim so much, stating that this district in ancient times supported upwards of 100,000 people, ten times the current population.29 While such legends are hyperbolic, they do seem to preserve an authentic memory of a more developed past in parts of Upper Tibet.


[12] This part of the work is based on John Vincent Bellezza, “A Cornerstone Report. Comprehensive Archaeological Surveys Conducted in Upper Tibet between 2001 and 2004. Documentation of archaic monuments and rock art in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Carried out under the auspices of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences and Ngari Xiangxiong Cultural Exchange Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region.” Tibetan & Himalayan Library. (URL not currently available. 2005). For more detailed typological and paleocultural information, see Bellezza, Zhang Zhung.

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[29] Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 31.

Note Citation for Page

John Vincent Bellezza, Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland (Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010), .

Bibliographic Citation

John Vincent Bellezza. Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland. Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010.