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

PemochéSpe mo che

Basic site data

  • Site name: PemochéSpe mo che
  • Site number: A-65
  • Site typology: I.1
  • Elevation: 4310 m
  • Administrative location (township): winter settlement (günsadgun sa)
  • Administrative location (county): GarSgar
  • Survey schedule: UTAE
  • Survey date: May 13, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

In the middle of the broad GarSgar valley, on the left side of the Gar TsangpoSgar gtsang po, there is an earthen mound called PemochéSpe mo che. This feature has a circumference of 120 m and a maximum height of 10 m. It is not clear whether this mound represents a natural landform with anthropogenic modifications or is entirely the remains of a manmade structure. The earthen walls found inside the mound are so degraded that they are virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding earth. On the east side of the formation, small rounds of wood are regularly spaced between some earthen slabs. Bone fragments are found inside the mound.

Oral tradition

According to local residents, the PemochéSpe mo che mound is the remains of an ancient fortress founded before Rala KharmarRa la mkhar dmar. It is said to have been abandoned because the site was inauspicious and Rala KharRa la mkhar built in its place. Local lore says that it was surrounded by inauspicious signs embodied by the encircling mountains. To the south, the mountain was like the gaping jaws of a wolf ready to devour livestock. To the west, the mountain was dark, like the darkness created by placing a lid on a vessel. To the north, the mountain was like a butting yak whose horns were menacingly pointed in the direction of the fortress. To the east, the mountain was like a combative man ready to strike. PemochéSpe mo che seems to be associated with the MönMon, that nebulous ethnic group thought to have inhabited much of Upper Tibet in early times.

Affiliated sites


Less than 300 m away from PemochéSpe mo che, human bones were discovered in 1999 or 2000 by construction workers from LhatséLha rtse. They were digging in the area to make adobe bricks for a new settlement. Among the remains were human skulls but their whereabouts are no longer known to local residents. By the time of the survey, only a few human leg bones and vertebrae were found scattered on the surface.

Rala KharmarRa la mkhar dmar

Rala KharmarRa la mkhar dmar (32° 28.9΄ N. lat. / 79° 51.5΄ E. long. / 4300 m) was founded by the first Buddhist king of Stod, Nyima GönNyi ma mgon (tenth century), in GarSgar county.50 This large citadel is located near the right bank of the Senggé TsangpoSeng ge gtsang po (Indus River), below its confluence with the Gar TsangpoSgar gtsang po. The valley is very broad here and supports excellent pasturelands. The buildings of the fortress begin just above the valley floor and continue upwards along a rocky limestone hillside for 50 m. Unlike most archaic strongholds, the facility does not possess a particularly secure geographic aspect. The site is divided by a gully into north and south sectors, and the ruins have a total dispersion of approximately 4000 m². Contiguous residential complexes are found in the two sectors. Defensive walls are largely absent from the site, as are buildings with a sharply staggered placement along the axis of the slope. The buildings were mostly constructed of coursed-rubble that was heavily mortared with red mud. The mud leaching from the walls has tinted the stones a distinctive red color. In some places mud plaster still clings to the walls.

Primarily small pieces of blue-gray limestone (20 cm to 40 cm in length) were used for construction. Design traits demonstrate that all buildings supported roofs made with timbers, although none of these roofs have survived. A few walls of the facility exhibit diagonal courses of masonry interspersed between horizontal courses. This style of stonework is most commonly found in archaic temple-tombs appended to quadrate arrays of pillars. However, the standard of stonework at Rala KharmarRa la mkhar dmar is generally inferior to that encountered at the archaic temple-tombs. Buildings of the castle tend to have high elevations, with many wall sections 3 m to 5 m in height still standing. These structures contained relatively large rooms (commonly 15 m² to 25 m²). A few small window openings are found in certain buildings. The vestiges of manima ṇi walls are located below the site in the valley bottom.


[50] According to the Ladak GyelrapLa dwags rgyal rabs, Nyima GönNyi ma mgon built Rala KharmarRa la mkhar dmar in the Horse Year (rta’i lo la ra la mkhar dmar rtsigs), which can probably be assigned to 910 CE. This same source states that this was the first site occupied in the Ngari KorsumMnga' ris skor gsum kingdom. Nyangrel ChönjungNyang ral chos 'byung mentions that Rala KharmarRa la mkhar dmar was located north of Mapam YutsoMa pham g.yu mtsho. For these references, see August Hermann Francke, Antiquities of Indian Tibet. The Chronicles of Ladakh and Minor Chronicles, Texts, Translations, with Notes and Maps. Reprint edition (Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, New Imperial Series, 1972), 93; Roberto Vitali, The Kingdoms of Gu.ge Pu.hrang. According to mNga’.ris rgyal.rabs by Gu ge mkhan.chen Ngag.dbang grags.pa. (Dharamsala: Tho.ling gtsug.lag.khang lo.gcig.stong ’khor.ba’i rjes.dran.mdzad sgo’i go.sgrig tshogs.chung, 1996), 548, 553.

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.