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

Jangtang KharByang stang mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Jangtang KharByang stang mkhar
  • Site number: A-116
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 4180 m (midpoint)
  • Administrative location (township): ShangtséShang rtse
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 13, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: Minimal religious activity.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Tucci and Ghersi first visited the castle of JangtangByang stang in the early 1930s.79 They record its name as KharpochéMkhar po che. The ruins are located on the main summit (57 m by 12 m to 35 m), rising 40 m above the village of JangtangByang stang. The highest point of the summit is dominated by a single rammed-earth structure. This is the only edifice at the site whose plan is still discernable. In contrast, most other structural remains of the castle are in a state of advanced decay. The way in which wall segments are arrayed across the entire summit does seem to indicate that a large facility was once located here. In the side of the formation overlooking the village there are around 50 caves; these appear to have comprised the original settlement of JangtangByang stang. Most of the forward sections of the caves have been obliterated by the collapse of the formation. Interestingly, the shrine for the local yüllhayul lha, Tangkar Chulung KarmoThang dkar chu lung dkar mo, is situated on a hill located farther from the village. Ruined Buddhist temples were also founded in alternative locations. These locational patterns seem to support the MönMon or non-Buddhist identification of the site. It seems likely that the construction and maintenance of Jangtang KharByang stang mkhar and the cave residences would have required a larger population than is now found in the village (currently 15 households with a total of around 70 people).

Oral tradition

Jangtang KharByang stang mkhar is said by local villagers to have been an ancient Kel MönSkal mon castle.

Site elements

High point structure

The four walls of the large rammed-earth edifice on the vertex of the summit are still partially intact (11.4 m by 11.7 m). These walls stand as much as 6 m above the summit. The 50 cm to 60 cm thick walls are punctuated by rows of stone-lined rectangular orifices used to accommodate shuttering pins during construction. The rammed-earth building was partitioned into at least four rooms. Three of these rooms are situated against the north wall. In the east room, near the current ground level, there is a rectangular window (50 cm by 25 cm). Its lintel consists of five small rounds of wood that seem to belong to two different species of tree. There is also a similar window in the south central room with a crosshatch wooden lintel.

Other summit structures

The summit structures present an incongruous picture. Except for the high point building, nearly all the remaining walls on the summit are so deteriorated that it cannot be determined whether they are of the adobe block or rammed-earth type. The only exceptions are several other rammed-earth fragments and a 4 m-tall adobe-block wall on the east edge of the summit. This contrast in the physical condition of the various ruins may possibly be explained by different dates for the establishment and destruction of these monuments. All structures were made from local gray earth with an admixture of gravel. Some of the extant walls may have formed a parapet along the edge of the summit. The summit slopes steeply down towards the east. On the east side of the summit there are two caves that have been converted into a local religious retreat. The main summit is now cut off from a smaller 20 m long summit to the west, but it is likely that they were once connected. There are a few signs of minor structures on the west summit.

Affiliated sites

Buddhist monuments

A little downstream of JangtangByang stang there is a ruined Buddhist temple and chötenmchod rten known as Lhakhang GokpoLha khang gog po (Ruined Temple). It is located on a bench overlooking the right side of the valley floor. There is another Buddhist facility called Mön LhakhangMon lha khang up valley from JangtangByang stang, perched on a ridge on the left side of the valley, It is supposed to have once been occupied by the MönMon. On the opposite side of the valley from Mön LhakhangMon lha khang there is another ruined Buddhist temple and chötenmchod rten called GyülangRgyud lang (sp.?).

Ritsé GyapRi rtse rgyab

Several kilometers up valley from JangtangByang stang there is a cave complex and ruined earthen buildings in the badlands formation at the agricultural village of Ritsé GyapRi rtse rgyab (31º 58.9΄ N. lat. / 79º 29.8΄ E. long. / 13 households). In addition to what is referred to as a kharmkhar, there is reported to have been a small lhakanglha khang on the same summit. The history and development of Ritsé GyapkharRi rtse rgyab mkhar does not seem to have been retained in the local oral tradition. Approximately 1 km upstream of Ritsé GyapRi rtse rgyab, where the valley narrows to form a gorge, there are the ruins of another Buddhist residential complex. Roughly 50 m above this site, a small earthen ruin crowns the top of a conical formation. Known as sampukBsam phug, there are various caves in the flanks of this formation. This site appears to have been another locus of early settlement.


[79] Giuseppe Tucci, and Eugenio Ghersi, Cronaca Della Missione Scientifica Tucci Nel Tibet Occidentale (1933) (Roma: Reale Accademia D’Italia, 1934).

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.