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

Domra DzongSdom ra rdzong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Domra DzongSdom ra rdzong
  • English equivalent: Spider Enclosure Fortress
  • Alternative site name: Tönra DzongMthon ra rdzong
  • English equivalent: High Enclosure Fortress
  • Site number: A-74
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 4850 m
  • Administrative location (township): DrowaGro ba
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 22 and 23, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing and the periodic propitiation of the local yüllhayul lha, DomraSdom ra.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: On the west end of the inner structure there is a flag mast erected in honor of the local yüllhayul lha.
  • Maps:
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

In the middle of a large basin, just outside the DrowaGro ba township headquarters, there is a 120 m tall, flat-topped hill known as DomraSdom ra/TönraMthon ra. This isolated hilltop has unobstructed views across the extensive Nyawo TsangpoNya bo gtsang po basin. On its summit there is a symmetrical arrangement of substantial rectilinear footings aligned in the cardinal directions. These footings are distributed over an area of 1000 m². The symmetrical layout of these structures, their uniform design elements and analogous erosive qualities indicate that they were built in the same general time period. Four rectangular structures set in the compass points surround a much larger central structure. The well-built footings must have originally supported significant superstructures. The regular alignment and straightness of the foundations indicates the superstructures could only have supported wooden or semi-permanent roofs. The founding of an ancient facility at DomraSdom ra can probably be explained by the presence of ideal winter grazing grounds and ample fresh water in the vicinity. Such natural endowments remain very important to the contemporary settlement. Stones used for construction were finished and are between 20 cm and 1 m in length. The ground plan and geographic aspect of Domra DzongSdom ra rdzong most resemble DzongnakRdzong nag (A-2), located 60 km to the east in SinyaSrin ya, ShentsaShan rtsa county.56

Oral tradition

According to native drokpa’brog pa, DomraSdom ra is an ancient fortress. One elderly resident associated it with King GesarGe sar of the Tibetan epic. Another local account states that the builders tried to extend the walls higher and higher, but in the end they could not attain a height more than that of a goat.

Site elements

Summit complex
Outer structures

The southwest structure (8.4 m by 6 m) has all four foundation walls intact. They are around 60 cm thick. On the southeast corner of the structure there is a 1 m high rocky tumulus. The southeast structure (6.7 m by 6.5 m) has walls around 70 cm thick, which are elevated 30 cm to 80 cm above the surface of the summit. The northeast structure (7.7 m by 6.6 m) has a slightly elevated area (6.9 m by 4.6 m) within it, which is probably filled with rubble. The north wall of the northeast structure is 70 cm thick and elevated 40 cm above the ground surface. The northwest structure is of like construction and dimensions.

Inner structure

The central structure was located on the highest point of the summit. It covers an area of 29 m (east-west) x approximately 9 m (north-south), with an extension adding approximately 15 m². The core central structure lies around 12 m from each of the four outer structures. Its south section has been leveled but the north section is still elevated on its southwest corner to a maximum height of 2 m. These walls are made of dry-stone random-rubble. A wall running east-west bisects the north section of the inner structure.

Outlying structures

Forty-eight meters below the east edge of the summit is another foundation aligned in the compass points. It measures 17 m (east-west) by 4.4 m (north-south), and is partitioned into two sections. The better preserved east half has 60 cm thick walls, which protrude 40 cm to 80 cm above ground.


[56] A description of DzongnakRdzong nag is found in John Vincent Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet: Archaeological Discoveries on the High Plateau (Delhi: Adroit, 2001), 89, 90.

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.