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

Takla KharStag la mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Takla KharStag la mkhar
  • English equivalent: Tiger Hill Castle
  • Site number: A-81
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 4150 m.
  • Administrative location (township): KyitangSkyid thang
  • Administrative location (county): PurangSpu rang
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 3, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing and illegal excavations carried out in search of valuable artifacts. Many small holes have been recently dug at proximate monasteries.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS X, HAS C4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Rising 260 m above the town of PurangSpu rang is the celebrated Takla KharStag la mkhar, a large fortress and monastic complex. The parent hill is on the right bank of the Maja TsangpoRma bya gtsang po (Karnali river). According to the BönBon tradition, a fortress on the hilltop was founded in the prehistoric Zhang ZhungZhang zhung period.61 This hill, known as Mengyi Gyelmo Takri RongSman gyi rgyal mo stag ri rong (Queen of the Mensman Tiger Hill Valley), also hosted the Gelukpadge lugs pa monastery of Shenpel LingBshad ’phel gling, as well as an earlier monastery belonging to the Sakyasa skya sect. This same hill also supported the old Tibetan government (Ganden Podrang Sizhungdga’ ldan pho brang srid gzhung) headquarters (dzongrdzong) of PurangSpu rang. Verification of the cultural identity of structures attributed to prehistoric Zhang ZhungZhang zhung was not possible. Its morphological and design characteristics vary little from those exhibited by the sakyapasa skya pa monastery. Nevertheless, the strategic location of the Mengyi Gyelmo Takri RongSman gyi rgyal mo stag ri rong hilltop near a main river confluence, in western Tibet’s largest agricultural enclave, and the paucity of contending strongholds, lend credence to the literary and oral traditions attributing an archaic cultural monument to this location.

Oral tradition

A single earthen wall segment of the prehistoric epoch stands on the summit of the Takla KharStag la mkhar hill. In the local oral tradition, this castle is variously called Taklha KharStag lha mkhar (Tiger God Castle) and Takmo Ritra Taklha KharStag mo ris bkra stag lha mkhar (Female Striped Tiger Tiger God Castle).

Site elements

Zhang ZhungZhang zhung fortress

The hill of Mengyi Gyelmo Takri RongSman gyi rgyal mo stag ri rong rises to the west until, at its highest point, it is suspended above the old Buddhist monasteries. On the 15 m wide summit there is a highly eroded V-shaped rammed-earth wall, 15 m in length, a maximum of 1 m thick and approximately 6 m high. The mouth of the “V” is 5 m wide. There are, more or less, 12 horizontal rows of orifices in this wall, in which pins used to hold the shuttering in place during construction were inserted. Capping many of these orifices is a stone in the wall and in some places adobe blocks. The walls of the ruined SakyaSa skya monastery are constructed in a similar fashion, while those of Shenpel LingBshad ’phel gling are much less weathered, contain far fewer orifices and only average 40 cm to 60 cm in thickness. In addition to the landmark wall segment, there is cobble building rubble on the summit. This rubble is scattered west and south of the summit. Faint traces of another wall are found on the steep south flank of the summit.

Cave complex

Immediately north of Mengyi Gyelmo Takri RongSman gyi rgyal mo stag ri rong there is a south facing cave complex with around 40 individual caves. These evidently were used by Buddhist religious practitioners, because there are many manima ṇi mantras carved on the cliff face and among the domiciliary remains.


[61] See Bellezza, “Territorial Characteristics of the Archaic Zhang-zhung” for an analysis of the pre-Buddhist status of the site.

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.