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.

I.1. Residential Structures Occupying Summits: Fortresses, breastworks, religious buildings, palaces, and related edifices

Zhayé KharZha ye mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Zhayé KharZha ye mkhar
  • Site number: A-63
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 4420 m
  • Administrative location (township): ShangtséShang rtse
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda'
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: May 10, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Zhayé KharZha ye mkhar is a dissolved building complex situated on the summit and flanks of a small ridge. It is located approximately 1 km from the village of ShangpaShang pa. This relatively small installation occupies the 30 m-tall formation bounding the edge of the valley. The site is divided into east and west summits by a steep gully. Two masonry ramparts erected at different elevations barricade this south-facing gully. The staggered breastworks and small habitational footprints clinging to the formation exhibit morphological characteristics often associated with the MönMon, the dominant ethnic group in the archaic cultural horizon of GugéGu ge, according to the oral tradition. There are around two dozen caves at Zhayé KharZha ye mkhar, mostly situated near the base of the formation.

Oral tradition

According to local residents, Zhayé KharZha ye mkhar was a fortress of the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

East summit

On the east summit of Zhayé KharZha ye mkhar there are the remains of a single building (8 m by 5 m) with cobble lower walls on which stand adobe wall sections 1 m to 3 m in height. These walls were constructed on a substantial cobble revetment, 1 m to 1.5 m in height. Such type of walls could only have supported a building constructed with a wooden roof.

West summit

The nearby west summit had a similarly constructed building (10 m by 7 m), of which only small sections of adobe walls survive. On the west side of the west summit structure there is a cobble revetment 2 m to 2.5 m in height. Below this revetment there is a 2.2 m wide level area created by a cobble retaining wall, 50 cm to 2 m in height. Below this wall there is another level area (1.5 m in width), surrounded by a cobble wall a maximum of 2.2 m in height. These two masonry terraces probably supported small buildings at one time. On another terrace (3 m by 5 m), located below the west side of the summit edifice, there is a 65 cm high adobe wall segment. At just 20 cm thick, this adobe fragment has undergone a tremendous degree of dissolution. The terrace it sits on is bound by a masonry wall footing totaling 20 m in length. Adjacent to this terrace, on a small pinnacle, there is a finely built foundation that must have supported an edifice no larger than 3.5 m by 3.5 m. The construction of an edifice on this tiny pinnacle is in keeping with design attributes of archaic residential sites.

Other ruins

Directly above the village of ShangpaShang pa there is another archaeological site locally referred to as a “castle” (kharmkhar). On a small summit (2.5 m by 11 m) there are adobe wall fragments (a maximum of 2.5 m in height), which rest upon cobble foundations. There appear to be other wall-footings in close proximity. Located upstream of the village, above the confluence in the valley, are the ruins of the GelukpaDge lugs pa Shang GönpaShang dgon pa.


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.