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

Lhünburtsé DzongLhun ’bur rtse rdzong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Lhünburtsé DzongLhun ’bur rtse rdzong
  • English equivalent: Hill Summit Fortress
  • Site number: A-73
  • Survey typology: I.1c, I.2c
  • Elevation: 4690 m to 4720 m
  • Administrative location (township): TagoRta sgo
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 20, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS VIII, HAS B1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Lhünburtsé DzongLhun ’bur rtse rdzong is composed of various breastworks built on the rugged heights of a hill overlooking the east side of Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho. The site is located where the plain bounding the southeast side of the lake shrinks to a thin strip of rocky land, just north of a small valley called TratsangKhra tshang (Hawk’s Nest). This position enjoys expansive views in all directions, as befits a stronghold. It consists of two groups of ramparts: one on the summit and one below it on the west side of the formation. The largest network of walls is found on the summit, which rises nearly 200 m above Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho. The series of small protective walls clinging to the formation appear to be an archaic architectural feature, and permanent buildings may not have been established here. The highly deteriorated ramparts are covered in orange climax lichen and do not seem to have been disturbed for a long time. They were constructed of random-rubble and may have been dry-stoneed, as there is little evidence of adhesive materials in the joints. The uncut blocks used in construction are mostly between 20 cm and 60 cm in length.

Oral tradition

According to Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho BönBon luminaries, Lhünburtsé DzongLhun ’bur rtse rdzong was an ancient BönpoBon po fortress and religious facility.

Site elements

Upper complex

The large group of defensive wall sections found on the summit encompass an area that measures 40 m (east-west) by 12 m (north-south). They have been mostly leveled to their foundations. The maximum elevation of a freestanding wall is 60 cm, while walls that revet the formation reach 1.7 m in height. These walls were purposely hidden from view, suggesting that stealth was a major tactical consideration in the use of the installation. This concealment was accomplished by setting the walls slightly behind the summit crags and exposed south ridgeline. A horizontal south rib of rock and a rocky arm 3 m higher and to the north create a naturally sheltered space between them, which was accented by the construction of the walls. Small rock faces divide this zone into several levels. Above the two ribs of rock, on the very summit, there is a mass of rock with traces of small foundations on both its north and south faces. Except for a single access point in the north, sheer rock faces surround the upper complex.

Lower site

Directly below the summit, on the west side of the hill, are the remains of a rampart wall 35 m in length, which runs along the top of a horizontal rib of rock. This wall must have functioned as a forward line of defense.

Affiliated sites

BönBon hermitage

Between the summit and lower rampart walls, on the south side of the formation, there is the BönBon retreat center of LhünburtséLhun ’bur rtse. This site was clearly occupied in more recent centuries. It consists of two main caves and a small building interconnected by a narrow open-air gallery. The gallery is appended to a covered vestibule leading to a small outer courtyard. The single-room building is set on the south side of the complex against a cliff. Its walls are of random-rubble that is heavily mortared in mud. The roof is fully intact and was entirely built of stone in the archaic manner of construction. Finely cut bridging stones were placed upon corbels at various angles, and stone sheathing laid over them. The entranceway is only 1.2 m in height, a diminutive size typical of all-stone edifices (dokhangrdo khang). The interior dimensions of the room are 2.5 m by 2.5 m, and it has a floor-to-ceiling height of 1.7 m. Inside the room is a hearth and shelving, clearly identifying it as having a kitchen/utility function. The 5 m long north cave has a masonry façade with an entranceway 1 m tall. Against one wall is an elaborate stone and adobe altar with various shelves and niches painted in red ochre. This altar is in good condition and is an excellent example of retreat cave furnishings. There is plenty of standing room in the cave and a small hole in the ceiling. According to the Yubün TrülkuG.yu bun sprul sku, Tendzin TsültrimBstan ’dzin tshul khrims, this hole was used in esoteric dzokchenrdzogs chen practices. Outside the complex there is a masonry wall on which sit old plaques inscribed with the akar du trisua dkar du tri su mantra (for the primordial Buddha Küntu ZangpoKun tu bzang po).


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.