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

Kharru KhargokMkhar ru mkhar gog

Basic site data

  • Site name: Kharru KhargokMkhar ru mkhar gog
  • English equivalent: Castle District Ruined Castle
  • Site number: A-85
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 4440 m to 4480 m
  • Administrative location (township): DerokSde rog
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 22, 24, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Kharru KhargokMkhar ru mkhar gog is located on the west side of the RusumRu gsum valley, opposite Posa KhargokSpo sa mkhar gog (A-84). The site strategically dominates the confluence of the DechöSde chos and RusumRu gsum valleys. It consists of both lower and upper complexes of residential buildings surmounting a rugged granite ridge. Structures are made from the same type of granite found at Posa KhargokSpo sa mkhar gog. The stronghold enjoys an excellent vantage point with good views of both the DechöSde chos and RusumRu gsum valleys. The lower elevation smaller complex contains a number of habitational structures. The upper complex consists of one large building (22 m by 15 m) and minor outlying structures. The lofty location of the facility and the presence of all-stone corbelled architecture indicate that Kharru KhargokMkhar ru mkhar gog is an archaic site.

Oral tradition

According to the villagers of DechöSde chos, Kharru KhargokMkhar ru mkhar gog is a castle that belonged to the ancient Kel MönSkal mon ruler of DechöSde chos. The Kel MönSkal mon commoners are thought to have resided in a large village situated on rocky benches at the south edge of the valley (see B-81).

Site elements

Lower complex

The upper part of the lower complex (14 m by 3.2 m) contains fragmentary walls up to 2 m in height, which envelop crags on the summit. Walls are between 40 cm and 50 cm thick and are situated at a variety of elevations. There is a window opening in an east wall (40 cm by 30 cm). The upper part of the lower complex is accessible via a natural stone chute in which the remains of a staircase are found. Below the chute, on both the summit ridge and the west flank of the formation, there are more ruined structures, blanketing an area of approximately 400 m². The small buildings here appear to have been split between three different levels and form a dense agglomeration. Only very dissolute wall footings and standing wall segments have persisted. The buildings of the lower complex were built of mud-mortared (profusely applied) random-work, with blocks primarily 20 cm to 40 cm in length. To the north of the lower complex there is a gap in the granite ridge-top in which there appears to have been a gateway. Bits of masonry cling to both sides of this opening in the formation.

Upper complex

The large main edifice was constructed on a high revetment, and is set at two different elevations. It was comprised of at least 14 rooms, the largest of which have internal dimensions of 3.5 m by 3.3 m and 2.8 m by 3.4 m (most westerly room). The relatively commodious rooms and the absence of wall buttressing indicate that this edifice was primarily constructed with a wooden roof. All-stone structures, however, are also in evidence. Wall sections are commonly 1.5 m to 4 m in height. Consequently, the building still possesses a distinctive profile. The mud-mortared random-rubble walls incorporate variable-sized granite stones (10 cm to 80 cm in length), some of which were hewn flat on their exterior sides. The lower or south level is in far worse condition than the upper tier of the structure. The entrance in the south punctuates a forward wall, 1.3 m thick. There are recesses in the floor of the lower level, each around 1 m in length and 80 cm in width, which are partly covered by small stone slabs. These members probably constituted part of the sub-flooring used to create a level base. There are a few beams made of a gray metamorphic stone strewn around the site. The stone lintel over the entrance between the lower and upper tiers of the building is still in situ. Against the outer walls of the upper level there are several small stone chests. Perhaps these were used for ritual purposes. The remains of a walkway along the steep slope leading up to the stone chests are still visible. Just to the south of the main edifice, on a separate peak, there is an isolated structure (3.5 m by 3.5 m) with walls 1 m to 1.3 m in height.

DechöSde chos agriculture

The approximately 5 km long DechöSde chos valley contains extensive arable holdings, less than 20% of which are still cultivated. This wholesale abandonment of prime agricultural land has one major environmental cause: the lack of water. So critical has the water situation become for the people of the 35 households of DechöSde chos village that they must travel far upstream to a little spring to meet their daily needs.67 According to elderly residents, water for the irrigation of the barley crop was more plentiful in their youth. This reduction in water appears to be a long-term phenomenon. The long-term observations of RutokRu thog natives indicate that the process of desiccation is only intensifying in northwestern Tibet. The region is subject to multiple rain shadow effects created by the Himalaya, Karakorum, Transhimalaya, and Kunlun Ranges. It now receives less than 200 mm of precipitation per year. All throughout the DechöSde chos valley there are the remains of disused agricultural parcels. The walls around these fields become ever more indistinct in a down valley direction. This suggests that the abandonment of arable land first began in the lower reaches, furthest from the source of the Dechö ChuSde chos chu. The lower valley also experiences considerably higher evaporation rates than the more sheltered upper valley, and this may have been an important factor in the dereliction of the fields. Around the lower valley plots there are the vestiges of stone walls and many have been encroached upon by sand deposits. On the other hand, some abandoned fields higher up the valley still have integral retaining walls. The discarding of farmland appears to have been a relentless process until cultivation is now confined to the immediate environs of DechöSde chos village. We can infer that, as the water in the Dechö ChuSde chos chu diminished (it now only flows during wet summer seasons), more and more fields were left fallow and eventually completely forsaken. The regression of viable farmland in the DechöSde chos valley is plainly visible from Kharru KhargokMkhar ru mkhar gog, which affords a superb recapitulation of the cultural impact of regional climatic change.

Above DechöSde chos village, the main valley bifurcates into the southwest SiplungSrib lung and northwest PulungPhu lung branches. The source of water for the village comes from the SiplungSrib lung valley, with a 6000 m high mountain at its head. Around 20 years ago, an impoundment was built below the village to trap summer runoff. It supplements a reservoir (dzingrdzing) that was constructed in pre-modern times and which was recently renovated. Both of these sources are fed by diversion channels that run off the Siplung ChuSrib lung chu. Higher up the Siplung ChuSrib lung chu, directly on the main watercourse, there is another reservoir. It is thought to have been constructed by the ancient MönMon. The downstream wall is around 30 m long and as much as 2 m in height. This impoundment is no longer used and its catchment has filled with sand. Interestingly, a shrine for the water spirits (lukhangklu khang) is no longer maintained in DechöSde chos; the residents must have given up hope for more water generations ago. The chief lumoklu mo of DechöSde chos is known as Ama MardzéA ma smar mdzes.


[67] The small houses of DechöSde chos were formerly built of local stone and with timbers hauled in from LadakLa dwags. Nowadays, most local houses are made of adobe blocks, while the timbers come from Xinjiang.

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.