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

Dosham Möngyi YülMdo gsham mon gyi yul

Basic site data

  • Site name: Dosham Möngyi YülMdo gsham mon gyi yul
  • English equivalent: Below the Valley Confluence Land of the MönMon
  • Alternative name: Dosham Möngyi YülRdo gsham mon gyi yul
  • Alternative name English Equivalent: Below the Rocks Land of the MönMon
  • Site number: A-111
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: upper site: 3940 m, lower site: 3870 m to 3890 m
  • Administrative location (township): TsarangRtsa rang
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 9, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: The lower site has a manima ṇi wall.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Dosham Möngyi YülMdo gsham mon gyi yul is located roughly 2 km down valley from Dosham Möngyi KharMdo gsham mon gyi mkhar (A-110) The upper site is likewise situated about 70 m above the east side of the DoshamMdo gsham valley. However, instead of an intervening esplanade, the slope it sits upon is directly connected to the eastern range of badlands. The site has a very good defensive posture and was virtually invulnerable from attack arising in any direction. Very little structural evidence has survived, probably in part, because the earthen formation it sits upon has been subject to rapid erosion and the periodic catastrophic failure of the slopes. The lower site, set directly below the upper site, consists of rubble-strewn surfaces and depressions extending over an area of 200 m by 60 m. The structures on this moderate slope have been heavily impacted by the construction of a masonry wall that runs along the entire length of the site near its lower reaches.

Oral tradition

According to local villagers, Dosham Möngyi YülMdo gsham mon gyi yul was a castle and village of the ancient MönMon. This site is considered inauspicious and cries are said to emanate from it. Local residents allege that gold, banded agates (zigzi), turquoise, and other valuables were at one time recovered here. It is also reported that ceramic vessels full of bones were discovered in the vicinity. Urn burials are sometimes reported from other parts of Upper Tibet as well.

Site elements

Upper site

On a 34 m long 8 m to 10 m wide ridge-crest there are small fragments of cobble- and block- wall footings. Below the sheer walls of the summit are structural vestiges that resemble ramparts. On the lower or west end of the ridge-crest there is a 15 m long bluff in which masonry and adobe blocks are embedded. These wall remnants are up to 4 m in height. The masonry walls exhibit a texture of alternating courses of stone blocks and cobbles (up to 50 cm in length). The presence of these tall well-designed structures may suggest that significant buildings once stood here. Below the bluff there is a ridge-prow (23 m by 21 m) that hosts highly obscured traces of wall-footings. These also appear to have been building foundations of some kind.

Lower Site

The lower site is elevated 5 m to 20 m above the valley floor. It appears that much of the detritus of the original structures was exploited to make the large wall that now dominates the site. This wall, built before living memory, has the design characteristics of a manima ṇi wall, but no inscribed plaques are found on it. It may have been constructed to subdue the inauspicious (non-Buddhist) aura of the site and to modify its archaic architectural character. Perhaps the resources to furnish it with religious plaques were never realized. On the south end of the lower site of Dosham Möngyi YülMdo gsham mon gyi yul there is indeed a manima ṇi wall with plaques of varying ages. The highly eroded specimens of the six-syllable mantra in lentsalan tsha script may well date to the second diffusion of Buddhism (tenpa chidarbstan pa phyi dar). Particularly at the northern end of the site, there are a series of shallow depressions that appear to be consistent with residential foundations. If so, this would corroborate local claims that this was once a (MönMon) village. Only one integral wall on the edge of a depression was detected. This 4.5 m long double-course wall segment is around 60 cm wide and appears to have formed part of the corner of a foundation. A wall fragment of the same general type and length is found clinging to a slope above the south end of the lower site. In the middle of the site there is yet another in situ wall, built into the edge of a 4 m high bluff. This wall is 5.6 m long and less than 50 cm in elevation.

Affiliated sites

Dosham MukkharMdo gsham mug mkhar

The current village of DoshamMdo gsham is situated on the west side of the valley opposite Dosham Möngyi YülMdo gsham mon gyi yul. Reportedly, it has 16 households and a population of around 80. Further downstream, where the DoshamMdo gsham valley enters a defile, there are the remains of the impressive Buddhist monastic complex of Dosham MukkharMdo gsham mug mkhar. This sprawling installation clearly indicates that a much larger population once inhabited the valley. It is said to have received its name from the many pigeons found here (in the NgariMnga’ ris dialect mukgumug gu means pigeon).78 Large mud-brick and rammed-earth buildings line the summit and sides of a large formation situated on the right or east side of the valley. The mesa-like formation blanketed in ruins is reminiscent of nearby TsarangRtsa rang (A-62), although Dosham MukkharMdo gsham mug mkhar is somewhat smaller. It is said that a functioning monastery, a branch facility of TodingMtho lding, existed at the site until the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Only one chötenmchod rten in KhadampaKha dam pa style is still maintained at Dosham MukkharMdo gsham mug mkhar. Interestingly, local villagers also refer to the summit complex as MukharSmu mkhar; musmu being a kind of mythical monster of ancient times. The musmu is widely encountered in the mythology of GugéGu ge lho smad. This myth may preserve a historical memory of the archaic occupation of the Dosham MukkharMdo gsham mug mkhar site. This view is given weight by the fact that the site, with its extensive summit and strategic position above a defile, is probably the most desirable spot for habitation in the DoshamMdo gsham valley. We must, therefore, consider the possibility that, in the archaic cultural horizon, the two so-called MönMon sites of the valley (A-110, A-111) were subsidiary to this location in terms of population and cultural significance. In keeping with this hypothesis, it would appear that the two minor “MönMon” sites were not the object of Buddhist resettlement, while the chief archaic site of DoshamMdo gsham was thoroughly redeveloped.


[78] For information about Dosham MukkharMdo gsham mug mkhar, see Gugé Tsering GyelpoGu ge tshe ring rgyal po 2006, 196-202.

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.