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

Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha

Basic site data

  • Site name: Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha
  • English equivalent: Long Springs Prow
  • Site number: A-92
  • Site typology: I.1a, I.1b
  • Elevation: 4320 m to 4340 m
  • Administrative location (township): RutokRu thog
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 30, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The formation upon which the Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha reposes is commonly thought to have the form of a sheep. On the top of this formation (45 m by 3 m to 24 m) which rises 50 m above the southwest side of the RutokRu thog basin, there are the ruins of what appears to have been a fortress or palace. The Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha complex also extends to the inner or south side of the formation. The floor plan of most buildings indicates that they were built with timber roofs. Luring NakhaLuring sna kha was one of four summit installations flanking the large, moist RutokRu thog basin (see A-16, A-17 and A-93). The RutokRu thog basin was and still is the most important agricultural pocket in the RutokRu thog district. Chronometric data obtained from an assayed in situ rafter (see below) indicate that at least some portions of Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha date to later historic times.

Oral tradition

According to the residents of RutokRu thog, Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha was an ancient MönMon castle. The deity inhabiting the site was a protector of RutokRu thog’s GonupSgo nub monastery (located on DzongriRdzong ri, in Rutok NyingpaRu thog rnying pa), which was destroyed in the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Site elements

Summit complex

On the summit there are a tightly joined group of about 15 mud-mortared random-rubble buildings. Little mortar, however, is still left in the seams. Including the revetments, present-day structural elevations reach 4 m to 5 m in height. Revetments up to 3 m in height and freestanding walls 1 m to 1.5 m are commonplace. The highest or west portion of the summit is less than 3 m wide. It gradually widens to around 12 m in the middle and 24 m on its eastern extremity. The 50 cm to 70 cm thick walls were built with stones up to 60 cm in length. The exterior faces of the stones were cut flat. In the central section of the summit there are also a couple standing walls made of adobe blocks (50 cm by 20 cm by 10 cm). The adobe walls are up to 2 m in height, and consist of alternating courses of blocks set into the wall lengthwise and widthwise. These highly weathered walls are devoid of a mud veneer. In RutokRu thog, adobe-block walls are not associated with archaic cultural sites. Below the east side of the summit there is a small ruined building.

South structures

Below the summit, on the south side of the formation, there are the carcasses of several small buildings adhering to near vertical rock faces. Their prominent apron walls and an elevated stone pathway connecting various ledges clad much of the south face of the formation in masonry. Underneath an elevated section of the pathway there is a narrow chamber capped by a stone containment (1 m thick), which is supported by six hardwood timbers (50 cm to 80 cm in diameter). A 5 m high retaining wall supports this section of the pathway, creating the narrow, concealed chamber below. The radiocarbon assaying of a timber overlying the chamber indicates this section of the Luring NakhaLu ring sna kha was constructed only 300 to 500 years ago.71 Below the foot of the formation, the pathway continues to be elevated as much as 1.5 m above the slope atop a prepared stone bed. On its approach to the south side of the formation, the 2 m wide, evenly graded path winds around the proximate hillside. It must have provided a rather grand entry to the installation. The lower end of the walkway falls away into steep, east-facing talus-covered slopes.

North structures

Just above the north foot of the formation there is a highly deteriorated building foundation. On ledges a few meters above it there are two other building foundations. Further up, about halfway to the summit, there is yet another demolished structure.

Affiliated sites

KhartséMkhar rtse

The old residential complex of KhartséMkhar rtse is located north of Rutok DzongriRu thog rdzong ri. It is perched on a limestone formation above Khartsé TshoMkhar rtse mtsho. Towering 40 m above the lake basin, this conterminous complex is comprised of the limestone revetments and adobe block walls of substantial buildings. KhartséMkhar rtse (Castle Peak) enjoys panoramic views in all directions. Access is via almost vertical expanses of rock, in keeping with its fortress attribution in the local oral tradition. The existence of small defensive structures on ledges below the summit of this site is also a design trait of Upper Tibetan strongholds. Nevertheless, the high elevation walls (up to 6 m), fairly large rooms and traces of red ochre tinting endow the site with architectural characteristics of Buddhist temples founded after the early historic period. Perhaps it represents the vestiges of a fortified palace with chapels. There is a single building on the west summit (6.3 m by 6.5 m), several structures on the central summit (15 m by 11) and residential remains on the lower east summit (16 m by 6m). On a saddle below the summit there are three large rebuilt chötenmchod rten, said to have been originally founded by a lama named Namkha LodröNam mkha’ blo gros as reliquaries (kudungsku gdung). The location of these chötenmchod rten support the Buddhist identification of the site.

The late lama of the Rutok DzongRu thog rdzong monastery (Lhündrup ChödingLhun grub chos lding), Lozang TenpaBlo bzang bstan pa (born circa 1933), was under the impression that KhartséMkhar rtse was founded in the tenpa chidarbstan pa phyi dar period (in personal communication, 2001–2005). Elders of RutokRu thog relate that when a LadakLa dwags army was laying siege to KhartséMkhar rtse, the queen of the castle washed her hair in melted butter. She let this butter pour over the hillside, giving the LadakLa dwags army the impression that the citadel still had ample water reserves. This stratagem is supposed to have saved KhartséMkhar rtse from ruination.


[71] A section in the round of one of the hardwood members was extracted for radiocarbon dating. Technical specifications: radiometric, sample no. Beta 200750; Conventional radiocarbon age: 370 +/-50; 2 Sigma calibrated result: Cal 520 to 300 BP; Intercept of radiocarbon age with calibration curve: Cal 460 BP; 1 Sigma calibrated results: Cal 500 to 420 BP and 390 to 320 BP.

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.