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

Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog

Basic site data

  • Site name: Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog
  • English equivalent: White Sands Ruined Castle
  • Site number: A-128
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 3900 m
  • Administrative location (township): ZarangZa rang
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTWE
  • Survey date: July 16, 2004
  • Contemporary usage: A single prayer flag mast.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Scattered inscribed plaques that appear to have been part of an old manima ṇi wall on the approach to the castle, and possibly a Buddhist edifice amid the structures of the stronghold.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog, located southwest of JekarBye dkar village, is perched on top of a rocky prominence. The once large citadel is divided into southeast and northwest (main) complexes. The ruins of Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog are highly degraded: all that is left are a few scattered stone wall fragments and much rubble. The buildings and individual rooms tended to be small. The thinness of the walls and the lack of buttressing indicate that most, if not all, of the buildings of Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog were constructed with wooden roofs. Walls (40 cm to 50 cm thick) contain small uncut blocks (10 cm to 40 cm long) and are of a heavily mud-mortared random-rubble texture. The diminutive size of the structures, the presence of irregular ground plans and the staggering of buildings around crags all hint at an archaic cultural status for Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog. Unlike the neighboring monastery of Namgyel LhatséRnam rgyal lha rtse, this more removed site is endowed with a good defensive posture. The main complex of Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog can be subdivided into east and west sectors.

Oral tradition

According to respected elders in JekarBye dkar village such as Jikmé Nyendrak’Jigs med snyan grags (born in the Dog Year, circa 1922) and Trashi SönamBkra shis bsod nams (born in the Pig Year, circa 1923), Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog was an ancient castle destroyed long before living memory. JekarBye dkar village (3570 m) has a population of just over 200 people, but reportedly at one time its four parts (lingzhigling bzhi) supported a population of around 500.85

Site elements

Northwest complex

The axis of the northwest or main complex is aligned east-west and is 85 m in length.

West sector

The west sector of the northwest complex, a tight collection of limestone and sandstone structures, straddles the summit of the outcrop (primarily 15 m to 20 m wide). The west sector appears to have been circumvallated. The summit of the outcrop is ringed by a revetment (up to 1.5 m in height, none of which is freestanding) that was part of this defensive work. Most of the summit is surrounded by vertical limestone faces. At the lower or west end of the west sector a building or room is distinguishable (interior dimensions: 5.7 m by 2.4 m maximum). One of its standing wall fragments reaches 2.4 m in height, 40 cm of which is part of the revetment. The east end of the west sector is about 10 m higher than the west end and contains the vestiges of several buildings. They include one with two rooms (exterior dimensions: 6 m by 5.2 m maximum), a structure of one room built 1 m into the summit (5.3 m by 3.6 m), and a building with several small rooms (9.4 m by 4.2 m). The eastern extremity of the summit narrows to a knife edge and hosts no structural detritus.

East sector

The east sector is sheltered below the summit on the south side of the outcrop. The west end of the east sector supports a single line of structures that extend beyond the eastern edge of the west sector. The east side of the east sector is 22 m wide and probably supported three tiers of buildings along a 45° slope. Many of these structures have fallen down the steep sides of the formation. On the east end of the east sector there is a relatively well-preserved building with a single room (5.4 m by 5.1 m). Mud plaster still adheres to the interior and exterior of the 2 m to 3 m tall walls. There is a small prayer flag mast inside this building. Its physical state of preservation and design traits are out of character with the rest of the site. The morphology of this structure suggests a Buddhist identity, possibly a house used for retreats. Fifteen meters below the east sector there is a lone building (5 m by 4.2 m) with revetments up to 2 m in height. This is likely to have been an outwork guarding the southern flank of Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog.

Southeast complex

This small installation is located 57 m southeast of the main complex. It occupies a rocky knob (4.5 m by 10 m). The southeast complex has been reduced to fragmentary revetments that line the formation. These revetments reach a maximum height of 1.5 m. Between the northwest and southeast complexes there are the footings of a quadrate structure (3.8 m by 3m) aligned in the cardinal directions. These appear to be the foundation of a ceremonial structure. Its configuration and location is in conformance with shrines found at various archaic citadels.

Namgyel LhatséRnam rgyal lha rtse

The moderately sized monastery of Namgyel LhatséRnam rgyal lha rtse (31° 36.5΄ N. lat. / 79° 00.2΄ E. long. / 3830 m to 3870 m), a Buddhist complex, was founded on southern slopes directly below Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog. A monastic structure also sat on top of a limestone summit to the north of Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog.86 Below Namgyel LhatséRnam rgyal lha rtse there is a saddle. The main source of water for the village passes over the top of this saddle. An irrigation channel brings the water from deep inside a chasm known as TralangKhra lang (sp.?). Namgyel LhatséRnam rgyal lha rtse was destroyed in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In addition to buildings with long, straight, high-elevation earthen walls set on limestone foundations, there were 14 or 15 main chötenmchod rten at the main monastic site. The old assembly hall (dükhang’dus khang) is said to have had 18 pillars. On the summit of the outcrop north of the saddle there was a single building constructed upon a prominent limestone revetment. This revetment may constitute traces of fortifications that probably once stood here. Given the strategic location on a main route to JekarBye dkar and the vulnerability of the site’s flanks to attack, it seems likely that defensive works were established on the north summit to help protect access to Jekar KhargokBye dkar mkhar gog. No attempt, however, was made to fortify the monastic facility here as it was founded after 1000 CE, an era of changed strategic concerns.


[85] JekarBye dkar is situated on a plateau perched high above the Zarang TsangpoZa rang gtsang po. The four parts of the village are JekarBye dkar proper, LungméLung smad, JanggönByang dgon, and KhangdrangKhang grang (sp.?), each of which once had a Buddhist temple. Barley, wheat, radishes, turnips, green leafy vegetables, apples, and apricots are all cultivated here. Water is of critical concern in JekarBye dkar. In the summer of 2004, both of the village’s reservoirs ran dry.
[86] It is not clear when Namgyel LhatséRnam rgyal lha rtse was founded (sometime during the period of the GugéGu ge kings). For information on this site see Gugé Tsering GyelpoGu ge tshe ring rgyal po, Ngari ChöjungMnga’ ris chos ’byung, 334-336.

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.