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

Bargyi KharBar gyi mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Bargyi KharBar gyi mkhar
  • Site number: A-104
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 4370 m
  • Administrative location (township): O JangO byang
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 1, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The diminutive stronghold of Bargyi KharBar gyi mkhar is perched on the crest of a steep limestone spur, approximately 40 m above the east side of the BarBar basin. The basin of BarBar adjoins the north shore of Tsomo Ngangla RingtsoMtsho mo ngang la ring mtsho. The slopes leading up to the facility are very steep, which afforded it with a good defensive posture. Although only a few families now reside permanently in BarBar, the presence of two additional fortresses (A-104 and A-105) in this locale indicate that it was once much more heavily populated. These three fortresses seem to reflect the existence of a localized social and military apparatus of considerable strength in the past. Echoes of this type of polity are still present in the traditional organizational patterns of the Upper Tibetan shepherd camps known as tsopatsho pa, shokpashog pa and sde.

Bargyi KharBar gyi mkhar enjoys panoramic views of the BarBar basin and Tsomo Ngangla RingtsoMtsho mo ngang la ring mtsho. This fortified residential facility overlooks a high volume spring that issues from the base of the reddish brown formation on which it was built. The mythological profile of such isolated fortresses in RutokRu thog and the absence of any structural evidence pointing to Buddhist occupation suggest that this site belongs to the archaic cultural horizon. The bulk of Bargyi KharBar gyi mkhar consists of a contiguous complex (17 m by 5.5 m to 7.6 m) constructed of limestone and conglomerate blocks. The wall construction and load-bearing spans involved indicate that the structures built here had wooden roofs. The wall joints contain copious amounts of a beige clay-based mortar. Mostly uncut stones, 30 cm to 1 m in length, were used in construction.

Oral tradition

According to local residents, Bargyi KharBar gyi mkhar was an ancient fortress.

Site elements

East complex

The axis of this east complex runs roughly east-west, and is set at the same elevation. The east complex consists of a large, almost L-shaped central space surrounded by wall segments, with a maximum exterior height of 3.2 m and a maximum interior height of 1.6 m. The presence of small outcrops inside these walls calls into question whether the central part of the installation ever supported a roof. Flanking the west side of the east complex is a building that appears to have contained three small rooms, but only the south room has substantial in situ partition walls. The interior of the south room measures 2 m by 2.7 m. The north room has a window or loophole (30 cm by 30 cm), which decreases in width toward the exterior side of the wall. This window is situated in an alcove that constitutes the widest portion of the north room (1.6 m). The entrance to this suite of three west rooms is found in the most northerly one. This 1 m wide ingress appears to have been the main entryway to the fortress. Perhaps a walkway led up to this access point, but no signs of it are still detectable on the steep flanks of the formation.

West edifice

This edifice is comprised of just a single room (3.2 m by 3.8 m). In the north wall are two loopholes, one of which is only partially intact. The more westerly loophole has an internal width of 45 cm, tapering to just 10 cm wide on its exterior side. There may also have been a small window opening in the south wall of this structure.


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.