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

Saten KharSra brtan mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Saten KharSra brtan mkhar
  • English equivalent: Hard and Steady Castle
  • Site number: A-71
  • Site typology: I.1a
  • Elevation: 4380 m to 4460 m
  • Administrative location (township): KhülpaKhul pa
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: May 27, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The once important citadel of Saten KharSra brtan mkhar stands on a rugged granite mount, situated on the north side of the KhülpaKhul pa valley. High standing walls give the ruins a formidable appearance. The bulk of the stronghold is perched on three prominent outcrops set at different elevations along a rocky spine. The use of stone appurtenances in the construction of this facility, the predominance of tiny rooms, the meandering wall plans, and the prominent revetments all point to an archaic cultural horizon origin. The largest and best preserved ruins are those of the upper complex (160 m²). They repose on the highest outcrop of the site, poised 80 m above the valley floor. Walls were built of random-rubble chunks of granite (10 cm to 80 cm in length). Below the fortress there is what appears to have been a sizable residential complex (3600 m²).

Oral tradition

According to local residents, Hard and Steady Castle was a castle of the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Upper complex
Upper edifice

The visual dominance of the upper edifice (6 m by 11m) in the upper complex is due to the existence of exterior wall sections still reaching 3.4 m in height. These same walls on their interior side are 2.2 m high, the difference being accounted for by the revetment underpinning the building. In the southwest wall of the upper edifice (exterior height: 2.8 m, interior height: 2.2 m) there is a window opening (30 cm by 35 cm) with a metamorphic rock lintel. The interior north wall has been cut down to an elevation of 1.5 m. The upper edifice contained a number of small rooms in the archaic design plan. The vestiges of some room partitions in the upper edifice are discernable; these being 50 cm to 60 cm in thickness. In the west corner of the interior a recess in the floor is spanned by two stone members 80 cm in length. In the central north portion of the structure there is a 90 cm long stone beam bridging a deeper recess. At the southeast corner of the edifice two stone members (1 m long) lie across an area below the main floor level. It is unclear if this feature is evidence for the existence of an extensive basement or just smaller compartments of the substructure.

Lower edifice

From the upper building, a narrow stretch covered in rubble leads downward from the top of the formation. This must be the remains of a walled passageway that accessed the lower edifice (5 m by 7 m?). The interface between the lower edifice and passageway is no longer distinct. It appears that the lower building was split into three discrete levels, with a 6 m vertical difference between the lower and upper tiers. The highest elevation wall fragment (southwest) in the lower edifice reaches 3.5 m on its exterior face and 1.8 m inside, reflecting the existence of an underlying revetment. In the southwest wall there is an aperture (30 cm by 20 cm) with a granite lintel. Inside the lower edifice there is also evidence of subterranean spaces, but in situ stone flooring was not observed. Dark-colored metamorphic corbels and bridging stones, however, are strewn around the ruin. From lower points on the formation, the upper complex was accessed via a masonry ramp, 15 m in length and 2 m or more in width. It ascends a 5 m vertical expanse of the formation.

Central complex

The central complex is situated on an outcrop, 15 m directly below the upper complex. This site consists of a broad notch (12 m by 2.8 m to 8 m) in the spine of the formation, which hosted a compact set of buildings. Very little has survived here. The west and north sides of the central complex are enclosed by natural rock walls and the other two sides by masonry walls. The maximum extant wall height of a structure is 2.7 m on the exterior and 1.1 m on the interior, the difference in elevation being accounted for by a revetment. Such masonry bases created level and stable construction sites and increased the overall stature of buildings.

Lower complex

The lower complex is located 5 m below the central complex on the same spine of granite. A single edifice (4 m by 5.2 m) overarches a knob of rock. Most of the west and north walls of this building are missing. The maximum exterior wall height is 2 m, with an interior elevation of 1.6 m. On the east flank of the lower complex outcrop there is a band of fragmentary foundations (14 m by 3 m). Also, inferior to the lower complex on a steep slope there is a nearly contiguous collection of poorly preserved building foundations (22 m by 24 m). No freestanding walls have survived among these small structures. A typical-sized building here measures 3.5 m by 4.5 m. Beyond this zone of ruins there are some outlying wall footings. Although very little of these lower structures have endured, they must have once constituted a significant monumental presence.

Chöten GiriMchod rten gi ri

Continuing downward in a southwest direction from the line of three outcrops, several more building foundations are passed en route to Chöten GiriMchod rten gi ri (no traces of chötenmchod rten were discovered here). This inclined rocky zone contains a fairly sparse arrangement of fragmentary building foundations. Chöten GiriMchod rten gi ri extends for 120 m along the line of the 15º slope and 30 m laterally. It is enclosed by the Drakdong KarpoBrag gdong dkar po formation in the west and Kyungmo DrakSkyung mo brag in the east. The nature and extent of the Chöten GiriMchod rten gi ri remains is questionable. They appear to have been part of a substantial residential quarter, the superstructures of which may have supported semi-permanent forms of roofing, such as those made from yak hides or hair.

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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.