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

Dungkar KhardongDung dkar mkhar gdong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Dungkar KhardongDung dkar mkhar gdong
  • English equivalent: White Conch Castle Face
  • Alternative name: White Conch Ruined Castle (Dungkhar Khargokdung mkhar mkhar gog)
  • English equivalent: White Conch Ruined Castle
  • Site number: A-70
  • Site typology: I.1
  • Elevation: 4420 m
  • Administrative location (township): KhülpaKhul pa
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: May 26, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: A shrine for the local territorial deity known as KhardongMkhar gdong (Fortress Face).
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: On the east side of the summit there is a flag mast erected for the territorial deity of DungkarDung dkar.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

White Conch Castle Face is planted on the flanks and top of a nearly vertical granite formation. Located on the left or west side of the mouth of the DungkarDung dkar valley, this installation must have been built to defend this agricultural enclave.55 The summit complex (29 m by 8 m maximum) consists of four levels of densely aggregated buildings spread over a vertical distance of 10 m, some 40 m above the valley floor. These buildings are likely to have had all-stone roofs but no signs of them have survived. The highly deteriorated, very small size of the residential structures and defensive walls, staggered at different levels in the formation, are archaic design traits, which corroborate the oral history of an early foundation date. Each of the terraces formed behind the ramparts must have sustained a fortified position of archers, slingers or spear throwers. These level areas in the nearly vertical eminence may have underpinned either permanent or temporary shelters used by defending troops. All structures are made of random-work dry-stone granite-block walls. Some of these variable-length blocks (up to 1 m long) were hewn flat on their exterior sides, and were used to produce walls 60 cm to 80 cm thick.

Oral tradition

According to local elders, White Conch Ruined Castle (Dungkar Khargokdung dkar mkhar gog) was a castle of the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Summit complex

The walls on the summit are very fractional, precluding a detailed assessment of their ground plan. Exterior walls reach a maximum height of 3 m and interior walls are 1 m to 2 m high in places. The larger, west end of the summit is separated from the east end by a notch in the formation spanned by a rampart wall. The western edge of the summit is occupied by a building with rounded walls up to 3 m in height and 4 m across. In this structure there is a window opening 40 cm in height. The east end of the summit is encircled by the remains of a defensive wall, now 1 m or less in height.

Defensive works on the west and south flanks

To the west of the summit there are a series of greatly dissolved walls circumscribing terraces with a total length of 20 m. These terraces may have once supported superstructures. On the flanks of the formation are a series of defensive works consisting of walled platforms. Below the summit, on the south side of the formation, there is a retaining wall up to 2.5 in height, creating a level area (2 m by 2 m). Slightly below it is another level area (5.5 m by 2.5 m) enclosed by a highly deteriorated wall. Farther down, on the southwest side of the summit, there is a fragmentary wall bounding a level area 4 m in length. Nearby on a ledge, a wall extends for 10 m towards the east side of the summit. Also in the vicinity are the footings of two more defensive walls. At a lower level, approximately 15 m above the valley floor, there are the foundations of more structures that were closely arrayed on the side of the formation. Also, about 15 m above the valley floor, on the southwest side of the formation, there is revetment that blocks out an area of 6 m by 5 m. Less than 10 m from the base of the valley there is an inclined area enclosed by a retaining wall, 14 m in length and 2 m and 6 m in width. The most substantial portion of this wall is 1.5 m high and 70 cm thick. Below this area there is a very narrow walled ledge. Such a structure could only have had a defensive function unless it was also invested with ritual significance.

Structures on the east flanks

At the east foot of the granite formation there are the remains of a wall, 1.6 m in height and 11 m in length. This important outwork acted to strategically separate the valley bottom from the defended heights. Just above it, on the east side of a cliff, there is a rampart wall up to 1.3 m in height enclosing a level area (2 m by 4.5 m). This wall incorporates boulders reaching 1.3 m in length. Approximately 20 m higher up is another rampart, a maximum of 2.5 m in height, which creates a level area covering 20 m². Five meters above it is another rampart, a maximum of 1.7 m in height, shoring up a terrace (2.8 m by 2 m). Above it are the remains of yet another small rampart built on the almost vertical granite walls below the summit.


[55] Less than 50% of arable land in the DungkarDung dkar valley is now being cultivated. A chronic shortage of water in the Dungkar ChuDung dkar chu is the main limiting environmental factor. East of DungkarDung dkar there is another small agrarian community in the valley of LanyungBla nyung. Only about one-third of its potential agricultural base is now being exploited due to dwindling water supplies. In earlier times, before the desiccation of the RutokRu thog region was so pronounced (RutokRu thog is situated in a multiple rain shadow), these two valleys must have been thriving farming communities. A similar pattern of environmental degradation is found in the nearby Tserlung’Tsher lung/TselungMtshe lung valley (Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 30, 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.