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

Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar
  • Site number: A-140
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 4390 m
  • Administrative location (township): ShangtséShang rtse
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: WYLE
  • Survey date: May 20, 2007
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar is located on a highly eroded, variegated earthen ridge-top, approximately 3 km north of the ShangtséShang rtse valley. To the west the site is bounded by the HurHur (sp.?) valley, which still has a perennial source of water. The HurHur watercourse probably extended further up valley at one time, providing a fairly convenient source of water for the facility. This hidden and isolated location is too far away from the ShangtséShang rtse valley to have exercised effective strategic control over it (this role would have been much better served by Shangtsé BönkharShang rtse bon mkhar (A-139) and its counterpart, Shangtsé KharShang rtse mkhar). Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar occupies the highest point of a long ridgeline, situated 200 m above the ShangtséShang rtse valley. Its lofty and austere location is typical of archaic cultural horizon installations, as are its prominent revetments and stonework. There are just a few caves in the vicinity of Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar, indicating that this was not a major nucleus of settlement. It is likely to have been inhabited by a political and/or religious elite. Although there is a lack of ramparts and other outlying defensive works (possibly these have been eradicated by the failure of the slopes), the flanks of the formation are steep, providing the facility with a quite respectable defensive posture.

Oral tradition

Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar is said by ShangtséShang rtse township elders to have been an ancient MönMon castle.

Site elements


Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar consists of a single edifice (10 m by 9 m), which appears to have had both north and south entrances. It is composed of random-work walls that contain copious amounts of a light-colored clay-based mortar. Variable-sized pieces of sandstone and conglomerate (up to 1 m in length) were used in construction. Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar, like many other archaic strongholds, is set on prominent revetments. The maximum extant height of the structure is 4 m, nearly all of which is made up by a revetment. Partially intact wall footings suggest that Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar was divided into at least four rooms. Freestanding wall fragments are now no more that 70 cm in height. No interior wall partitions have survived. On the west side of the structure there is a lower revetment (1 m high), which extends out laterally for 1 m. Above the lower revetment there is an upper revetment (2 m high). On the north side of Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar the revetment is up to 3.2 m in height. On the south side of the edifice the revetment is around 2 m in height. On the east flank of Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar a two-tiered revetment has a vertical expanse of 4 m. Thick buttressing against the east revetment may indicate that a smaller superstructure was appended to this side of the main edifice.

The standing walls of the castle superstructure are 60 cm to 75 cm in thickness. At the south entrance (1 m wide) a standing wall fragment is up to 1.1 m thick. The south entrance appears to have led to a landing that may have been at a slightly lower elevation than the adjacent rooms. The south portion of the edifice has an unclear floor plan. It appears to have contained two rooms. The north half of the structure appears to be comprised of two rooms as well, separated from one another by a corridor. The east room has internal proportions of 1.1 m by 2.6 m, and the west room is of similar proportions. The corners of these two compartments are rounded, a design feature reminiscent of dokhangrdo khang. Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar may well have been of an all-stone composition, however, there is very little structural evidence left to assess. No roof appurtenances are found on the site.

On the west side of the castle edifice there is an interconnected curtain-wall, protecting it from incursions originating in the north (the direction from which there is the easiest access to the site). The top of this wall lies below the base of the edifice. Its western extremity rests upon a 2 m high revetment (3.2 m in length) that forms a small platform. Beyond this point the formation drops off abruptly. The somewhat sinuous curtain-wall is 11 m long, up to 2.7 m in height and around 60 cm in thickness. It is possible that this curtain-wall was part of a more extensive enclosed structure, but if so, all traces have vanished. Interspersed in the curtain-wall are three triangular windows or loopholes, around 40 cm in height and with a base width of 20 cm. Two of them are lined with stone slabs. The presence of triangular apertures in Shiri MönkharShi ri mon mkhar suggests that this GugéGu ge design feature predates the tenpa chidarbstan pa phyi dar.


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.