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

Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar
  • Alternative site name: KharchenMkhar chen
  • English equivalent: Great Castle
  • Site number: A-52
  • Site typology: I.1
  • Elevation: 4730 m
  • Administrative location (township): HorchuHor chus
  • Administrative location (county): PurangSpu rang
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: April 23, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist Constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS X, HAS C4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar is situated on the summit of a white limestone outcrop rising 50 m above the left bank of the Rock Formation River (Drak Tsangpobrag gtsang po) river. The steep flanks of the formation endow the site with a good defensive aspect. The stronghold is due east and directly in view of the important BönBon holy mountain Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan. The Mapang Pomo KharMa pang spo mo mkhar citadel is divided by a saddle into north and south summits. The highly deteriorated remains consist of cobble (primarily 15 cm to 50 cm in length) rubble and fragmentary wall-footings. Some small sections of the revetment along the rim of the hill have also survived. There are no free-standing walls left at the site.

Oral tradition

Great Castle is said by local elders to be a castle of prehistoric Zhang ZhungZhang zhung, some of which refer to it as Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar, a name recorded in the famous BönBon pilgrimage register, Tisé KarchakTi se’i dkar chag by Karru DrupwangDkar ru grub dbang (b. 1801). Other local elders report that it is an ancient SingpaSing pa (generic term for invaders coming from the west) facility.

Textual tradition

A recently authored supplement to the Tisé KarchakTi se’i dkar chag furnishes BönBon lore about the Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan locale. Much of the legendary material in this account was compiled by the late BönBon physician, Tendzin WangdrakBstan 'dzin dbang grags (1922–2006). In this work it would appear that Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar is equated with a site called White Formation Summit Fortress (Drakkartsé Dzongbrag dkar rtse rdzong):33 “On the east side of Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan, at White Formation Summit Fortress, the great religious community (düdé'dus sde) of Yungdrung LhatséG.yung drung lha rtse had one thousand arhats (drachomdgra bcom). It was established by the Zhang ZhungZhang zhung abbot Yungdrung TsültrimG.yung drung tshul khrims.”34 Given its relative position and description as a white rock formation, it seems likely that White Formation Summit Fortress is indeed represented by the ruins under consideration. The literary account continues by stressing the paramount importance of Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan to Zhang ZhungZhang zhung history and the BönBon religion:

On the west side of Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan, on the slopes of the mountain PelpuDpal phu, the monastery of Yungdrung ChoktengG.yung drung mchog steng had 1600 religious practitioners (netengnas brtan). It was established by the Zhang ZhungZhang zhung abbot Trimbar TsukpüKhri 'bar gtsug phud. Also, on the south side [of Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan], at the mountain of Rompo PelHrom po dpal, the great religious community of Superimposed Swastika (Yungdrung Tsekpag.yung drung brtsegs pa) had more than one thousand monks (gendündge 'dun). It was founded by Tsukpü TsültrimGtsug phud tshul khrims. There is much other history [at Pori NgedenSpos ri ngad ldan]. Presently, it is evident that the [BönBon] doctrine was transferred to other [places]. Around the vicinity of Zhang ZhungZhang zhung Pöri NgedenSpos ri gnad ldan the ruins of old monasteries and fortresses are everywhere visible. Later, some of them were turned into the places of other religions and each of them has its own history.35

Site elements

South summit

The south summit dispersion measures 65 m by 10 m to 15 m. It is blanketed in igneous and other types of cobble rubble, which disgorge from both sides of the steep summit. It would appear that a dense collection of buildings once occupied the site. However, as only partial wall-footings remain, little can be said about the layout and design characteristics of these structures. On the north and west side of the hilltop, small sections of 1 m high revetments survive. The highest portion of Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar is the north end of the south summit.

North summit

This dispersion measures 37 m by 6 m (north end) by 13 m (south end). Like its southern counterpart this sector is covered in rubble, which suggests that a thick cluster of buildings once stood here. The only structural feature that has endured is remnants of wall-footings. A saddle 25 m in width connects the two summits of Mapang Pömo KharMa pang spos mo mkhar. The traces of a curtain-wall running between the two summits are found on the west side of this saddle.


[33] See Gangtsö Nyenkhorgi Gönpa KhakGangs mtsho’i nye ’khor gyi dgon pa khag, 53: yang spos ri ngad ldan gyi shar phyogs shel gyi brag dkar rtse rdzong du g.yung drung lha rtse’i ’dus sde chen po dgra bcom stong phrag dang ldan pa zhang zhung mkhan po g.yung drung tshul khrims kyis btab/.
[34] In the Tisé KarchakTi se dkar chag, Yungdrung TsültrimG.yung drung tshul khrims is credited with propagating the BönBon doctrine at Khyungchen Pungpé RiKhyung chen spungs pa'i ri. For this account, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 59, 60.
[35] Tendzin WangdrakBstan 'dzin dbang grags, “Gangtsö Nyenkhorgi Gönpa KhakGangs mtsho’i nye ’khor gyi dgon pa khag,” Zhang Zhung RiknéZhang zhung rig gnas: 53: spos ri ngad ldan gyi nub phyogs dpal phu'i ri ldebs su g.yung drung mchog steng gi dgon pa gnas brtan stong dang drug brgya ldan pa zhang zhung mkhan po khri 'bar gtsug phud kyis btsugs/ yang de'i lho phyogs hrom po dpal gyi ri la g.yung drung brtsegs pa'i 'dus sde chen po dge 'dun stong phrag lhag ldan gtsug phud tshul khrims kyis bzhengs pa sogs lo rgyus mang yang nye dus bstan pa gzhan la 'phos pa ltar snang rung zhang zhung spos ri ngad ldan gyi nye 'khor rnams su dgon shul lam mkhar shul rnying pa gang sar mjal rgyu yod pa dang / kha shas phyi su grub mtha’ gzhan gyi gnas su 'gyur ba dang rang rang gyi lo rgyus dang bcas pa gsham gsal/.

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.