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

Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang

Basic site data

  • Site name: Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang
  • English equivalent: Valley God Victory Banner MönMon House
  • Site number: A-135
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 4880 m
  • Administrative location (township): RukyokRu skyog
  • Administrative location (county): SagaSa dga’
  • Survey expedition: TUE
  • Survey date: September 2, 2005
  • Contemporary usage: A small shepherd’s shelter (droklhé’brog lhas) was built on the summit.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS XIII
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang is situated on the tip of a reddish spur that projects out from a large outlier of the Transhimalayan range. This site occupies a dramatic and central position in the RukyokRu skyog valley, and is endowed with an excellent defensive posture. Cliffs and rock faces surround all sides of the spur, save for a single chute on its west side. This chute must have been the main access route to the facility. The site is named for a snow mountain that rises to the east (Ronglha GyeltsenRong lha rgyal mtshan). The axis of the spur tip is oriented north-south. The Rukyok TsangpoRu skyog gtsang po runs around its west side and a small tributary skirts its east flank. Only scant structural remains have survived on the summit. The rampart blocking access to the summit from the chute below is an excellent indication that this site functioned as a stronghold. It appears that substantial buildings stood here but all of them have been reduced to fragmentary footings and revetments. Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang can be divided into three complexes: south (lower), central and north (upper). These three complexes were designed and built in a similar manner indicative of an integral installation. Structures were made from uncut brownish-red metamorphic blocks and to a lesser degree of light-colored cobbles. Stones used in construction vary in length from 10 cm to 70 cm. Its morphological characteristics, lack of Buddhist emblems, oral tradition, extreme isolation, and altitudinous aspect indicate that Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang is an archaic cultural facility.

Oral tradition

Local drokpa’brog pa believe that Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang was an old MönMon residence. Some elders say that the ancient BönpoBon po resided here.

Site elements

South sector

The south sector occupies a level portion of the summit and measures 11.4 m (north-south) by 7 m (east-west). It has been diminished to just footings, which are around 90 cm in thickness. Their uniform design and bulk indicate that they supported superstructures. The highest wall fragment is only 30 cm, while most walls are level with the summit. The south sector is bisected (east-west) by a wall footing. It is unclear if this was part of an internal partition or the external barrier of a building. Adjacent to the south sector, on the west side of the spur, there is another zone of highly dissolute structures (17 m by 9 m). These structures were built on a steep slope with a 4 m vertical difference between the high and low ends. This may suggest that there were buildings here set at two distinct elevations.

Central sector

The central sector begins 3 m from the south sector at 2 m higher elevation. On its southern extremity, what appears to have been a revetment (70 cm high) was built into an acclivity on the summit. The main portion of the central sector is situated 5.5 m north of this revetment. It is about 5 m higher than the south sector, and measures 27 m (north-south) by 4.8 m to 7.2 m (east-west). It is also comprised of footings that appear to have once supported buildings. These footings are well aligned in the cardinal directions. Evidently, the main portion of the central sector was divided into four units by east-west running walls. At the southwest corner of the central sector, a revetment with a random-rubble texture 70 cm in height has endured. On the east side of the central sector, there is the most developed wall fragment left at Ronglha Gyeltsen MönkhangRong lha rgyal mtshan mon khang. It is 80 cm to 1.2 m in height and is composed of uncut blocks and cobbles (10 cm to 50 cm in length). Some of these stones host orange climax lichen.

North sector

The north sector is situated 8 m north of the central sector at 4 m higher elevation. Measuring 9.8 m (north-south) by 6.7 m (east-west), it consists of highly fragmentary footings. The rampart wall guarding the entrance to the stronghold is situated below the north sector on the west side of the formation. This poorly-preserved rampart is 6.5 m long, a maximum of 1.2 m in height and up to 1 m in thickness. It is of a random-work dry-stone composition.


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.