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

Takzik NordzongStag gzig nor rdzong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Takzik NordzongStag gzig nor rdzong
  • English equivalent: Tiger Leopard Fortress
  • Site number: A-50
  • Site typology: I.1c
  • Elevation: 4870 m to 4890 m.
  • Administrative location (township): KhyelakKhyed lag
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: April 20, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS XI, HAS C5
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Tiger Leopard Jewel Fortress is located at the confluence of the RonggyüRong rgyud and smaller Fortress Valley (Dzonglungrdzong lung) valleys, neither of which has any contemporary permanent settlement. The ancient stronghold consists of two light-colored limestone formations that stand side by side. Their upper flanks are crisscrossed by defensive walls. From the higher west summit, which rises 70 m above the confluence, there are excellent views of the RonggyüRong rgyud river valley. The serpentine defensive walls were established at various elevations along the precipitous south side of the twin limestone formations. The extensive random-work, probably dry-stone defensive walls are built of slabs of stone up to 1 m in length. The level areas created behind the ramparts must have functioned as temporary living and working quarters, as well as for defense. By circumscribing the limestone mounts with walls, the defenders were able to move around in relative ease and could direct their salvos accordingly. Like Sky Fortress (A-48), the walls of Tiger Leopard Jewel Fortress are highly eroded and there can be little doubt regarding their antiquity. There are also a number of minor archaeological sites in the Fortress Valley valley.

Oral tradition

Local drokpa'brog pa believe that Takzik NordzongStag gzig nor rdzong is one of the fortresses of Tiger Leopard King of Wealth (Takzig Norgi Gyelpostag gzig nor gyi rgyal po), an invader who is supposed to have come from the northwest (Indo-Iranic borderlands or Central Asia). He is thought to have conquered major portions of western Tibet in early times. According to the GesarGe sar epic, Takzig Norgi Gyelpostag gzig nor gyi rgyal po was one of the main adversaries of King Ling GesarGling ge sar.

Site elements

West formation

Ramparts enclose both the south and east sides (sides overlooking the confluence) of the west formation. Its summit measures 24 m (east-west) by 7 m (north-south) and is ringed by a now discontinuous parapet (up to 1.5 m high). Along the near vertical southwest side of the summit, a defensive wall was probably not required. Within these walls, there is what appears to be the foundation of a small building (4.6 m by 3.8 m); its wall footings are 75 cm thick and up to 1.2 m in height. What may be another building foundation (5.4 m by 4 m) is located just below the west side of the summit, and was built against a rock face. Only walls 50 cm or less in height have persisted among these footings. Approximately 20 m below the summit, a defensive wall (60 m long) encircles the entire south flank of the formation. Small segments, however, are missing. This rampart is a maximum of 1.5 m high on its down-slope side and usually flush with the uphill side of the formation. It is up to 1.5 m wide and appears to have also functioned as a pathway that could easily be walked or camped on. The east and west ends of this long rampart terminate at unassailable cliffs.

On the north side of the west formation there is a wall segment (6 m long, 2 m high), which may possibly have been the foundation of another small building. There are also wall fragments, the remnants of outworks, at the base of the formation. A minor wall segment is found near the east base of west formation, overlooking the east formation. There are also three wall sections near the south base of the west formation, 5 m, 8 m and 6 m in length. There appears to have been yet another defensive wall segment hugging the south slope of the west formation, but it is almost completely destroyed.

East formation

There are the remains of a curtain-wall linking the east and west formations (63 m long). Much of this wall is now leveled, but certain sections along its north side reach 1 m in height. The south side of this structure is flush with the ground level. There is some structural evidence (courses of masonry protruding above the ground) to indicate that there was a parallel wall situated 2.5 m to the south. The east formation has a single defensive wall on its south side, 90 m in length. Much of this 1.5 m high, 1.5 m thick structure is still intact. Small traces of the rampart continue around to the west side of the hill.

DzonglungRdzong lung archaeological sites

In Fortress Valley (DzonglungRdzong lung) there are a number of minor ceremonial structures, which like the rampart network, must have been part of the erstwhile permanent settlement of the locale. There is ample water and plenty of dramagra ma brush here. On the south side of the mouth of the Fortress Valley, opposite Tiger Leopard Jewel Fortress, there are the remains of a double-course slab wall engulfed by dramagra ma brush. The visible wall segment is 6 m in length and 50 cm in width, with the upright slabs protruding a maximum of 30 cm above the ground. The morphological characteristics of this monument feature indicate that it is probably part of a funerary superstructure. There is also what appears to be a building foundation in the mouth of the Fortress Valley. A little way up the Fortress Valley, on a bench along the right side of the watercourse, there are the ruins of two tabernacle (tenkharrten mkhar)-like shrines (4830 m). The base of one specimen is largely intact (1.9 m by 3.4 m), while the other one has been nearly leveled (approximately 6.4 m by 3.2 m). Small pieces of stone plaques inscribed with manima ṇi mantras are found near the ruined shrines. Several kilometers upstream, the Fortress Valley bifurcates. In the middle of a pastoral camp, near this confluence, there are the remains of another shrine, probably of the tabernacle type (4910 m). Approximately 200 m downstream there is a Mön enclosure (mönramon ra), a heaped-stone wall enclosure (10 m across), built with stones up to 90 cm in length. This structure appears to be funerary in character.

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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.