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

KhartakMkhar ltag

Basic site data

  • Site name: KhartakMkhar ltag and LumkharKlu mkhar
  • English equivalent: Upper Aspect Castle and Water Spirits Castle
  • Site number: A-114
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 4140 m to 4160 m
  • Administrative location (township): ShangtséShang rtse
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 12, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Probably structural remains.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

KhartakMkhar ltag and LukharKlu mkhar are two ruined citadels located in the proximity of the village of RakkhashakRag kha shag. Due to access problems and the destruction of most remains, it is difficult to assess the importance and architectural composition of these strongholds. Local residents deny that these castles have any association with the MönMon, but no oral tradition save that they were ancient castles seems to have been preserved. The agrarian character of the settlement, the lack of Buddhist constructions, the fortress attribution of the site, the general geographic pattern of early citadels in the region, and the presence of cobble wall structures may suggest that at least parts of KhartakMkhar ltag and LumkharKlu mkhar date to the archaic cultural horizon. A cluster of no less than 14 chötenmchod rten called Dumdum ChötenZlum zlum mchod rten is found on a shelf on the opposite side of the valley. The siting of this Buddhist monument well away from the castles also raises questions about their cultural orientation.

Oral tradition

According to local villagers, KhartakMkhar ltag and LumkharKlu mkhar were twin ancient castles.

Site elements

Summit complex of KhartakMkhar ltag

Although a good trail comes within tens of meters, the summit complex of KhartakMkhar ltag has not been reachable in living memory. The summit is approximately 45 m in length and very narrow, as confirmed by a 6.5 m long cave about 15 m below it, which opens on both sides of the formation. There are around one dozen caves on the east face of the formation, 10 m to 15 m below the summit. Some small bits of cobble fronts are still in place but most forward sections of the caves have collapsed and have been swept away by the failure of the slopes.

Higher ground is found to the west of the KhartakMkhar ltag summit, but 15 m high vertical walls of the formation protect the high point of the castle. Small cobble wall segments are visible on the east side of the summit, yet most of these walls have disappeared along with parts of the summit. It appears that the summit hosted a single line of diminutive fortifications. Below the summit, the west face of the escarpment is lined with a cobble and block wall (10 m long). This must have once been part of a rampart, because there does not seem to be any other reason for wall remnants to be suspended in a vertical face some meters below the summit.

Cave complex of KhartakMkhar ltag

On a wide shelf below the cave complex of KhartakMkhar ltag there are scattered cobbles, the detritus of past structures. According to a local account, a small chötenmchod rten was found in one of the caves until being destroyed in the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

LumkharKlu mkhar

LumkharKlu mkhar is situated directly above the village of RakkhashakRag kha shag. A gully separates it from KhartakMkhar ltag, which lies to the north. The summit of LumkharKlu mkhar rises some 40 m above the village. Only the west portion of the summit is still accessible. On the summit there are earthen wall fragments of fairly minor proportions, which appear to date to after 1000 CE. Below the summit on the flanks of the formation are various caves. A long cave at the eastern base of the formation is used for storage. No cobble walls were spotted at LumkharKlu mkhar.


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.