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

Wutsé KharDbu rtse mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Wutsé KharDbu rtse mkhar
  • English equivalent: Acme Castle
  • Site number: A-129
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 3960 m
  • Administrative location (township): ZarangZa rang
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTWE
  • Survey date: July 16, 2004
  • Contemporary usage: Buddhist religious activities.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: A temple complex.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The old castle of Wutsé KharDbu rtse mkhar is situated above the village of ChuserChu gser87 on the west end of a level ridge-top. The site was subsequently redeveloped and Chuser GönpaChu gser dgon pa founded here.88 The castle ruins are concentrated on the east end of the site, which covers an area of 54 m by around 15 m. A revetment rings the entire site. The east end of this defensive structure base is around 4 m in height. It was designed to protect this vulnerable east approach to the installation. Other flanks of the ridgeline terminate in cliffs. As the oral tradition maintains, the buildings of Chuser GönpaChu gser dgon pa were planted on top of pre-existing structures. On the east end of the site there are low-profile unplastered stone structures, which appear to be reconstructed buildings that originally belonged to the citadel. They are windowless and have low ceilings and small entranceways (1.1 m by 75 cm to 1.2 m by 85 cm). There are also wall buttresses between the various small rooms. These architectonic features suggest that these were originally all-stone corbelled structures. They now have wooden roofs, however. In pre-modern times these buildings are said to have housed monks and to have been used for storage. In some places the ramparts around the site were also rebuilt. This reconstruction is evidenced in the low quality stone courses and irregular seams. The parapet wall rises as much as 70 cm above the summit.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, an ancient castle called Wutsé KharDbu rtse mkhar stood at this site before the founding of ChuserChu gser monastery.89 It is said that the fasthold was built to protect ChuserChu gser from ancient MönMon invaders. The monastery of the subsequent era had three main parts: the assembly hall (dükhang’dus khang), the protector chapel (gönkhangmgon khang) and the lama’s residence (ladrangbla brang). These all appear to have been relatively small structures. Only a tiny assembly hall has been rebuilt circa 1987. On the east side of the site there are two shrines (podrangpho brang) for local protective deities: TselaRtse bla (an archaic cultural god) and Dorjé BarwaRdo rje ’bar ba (a Buddhist god).


[87] About 50 people reside in ChuserChu gser. In 2004, a freak flood destroyed some of its precious farmlands in an otherwise unusually dry year. There is a single sacred juniper tree (lhashinglha shing) left in the village, a relic of once extensive juniper cover. Scrub juniper (bamaba ma) is still found in the environs.
[88] The monastery of ChuserChu gser was founded by Lochen Rinchen ZangpoLo chen rin chen bzang po in the 11th century CE (Gugé Tsering GyelpoGu ge tshe ring rgyal po, Ngari ChöjungMnga’ ris chos ’byung, 324).
[89] The main informant was Trinlé Gyatso’Phrin las rgya mtsho (born in the Bird Year, circa 1933), the caretaker of Chuser GönpaChu gser dgon pa.

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.