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.2. Residential Structures in Other Locations: Religious and Elite Residences

Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa

Basic site data

  • Site name: Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa
  • English equivalent: Hut monastery
  • Site number: B-24
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4850 m
  • Administrative location (township): KhyunglungKhyung lung
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: UTAE and HTCE
  • Survey date: April 30, 2001 and October 25, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Plaques with the manima ṇi mantra.
  • Maps: UTRS V, UTRS X, HAS C3
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa consists of a single archaic style temple (sekhanggsas khang/sekhargsas mkhar) built on gently sloping ground at the foot of Mount Jomo RirangJo mo ri rang. This all-stone corbelled structure probably contained around eight rooms, and measures 5.3 m (east-west) by 11 m (north-south). The rear or north side of the building has been heavily damaged by the construction of a now abandoned 7 m long corral. Despite there being roofing sections partially intact, Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa is highly deteriorated, precluding a detailed assessment of its ground plan. The walls are made of random-work composed of variable-sized stones (mostly slabs, 10 cm to 70 cm in length). A light-colored clay-based mortar was used, most of which has leached out from the walls. Corbels and bridging stones up to 1.9 m in length are scattered about the site.

Oral tradition

A tale circulates in the region concerning Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa: It was the residence of a lama named DrülgyelSbrul rgyal (Serpent King). This lama was a heavy beer (changchang) drinker. He owned a magical changchang container that always met his needs. DrülgyelSbrul rgyal had a woman servant named JomoJo mo (mistress/elder sister; the mountain Jomo RirangJo mo ri rang is supposed to have been named after her). DrülgyelSbrul rgyal gave her strict orders never to open the changchang container. One day JomoJo mo was overcome with curiosity; she wanted to know why the container provided the lama with an inexhaustible supply of changchang. After much hesitation, she opened the changchang container and a serpent jumped out and slithered away to PurangSpu rang, a land with much beer. The escape of the wealth-bestowing snake caused DrülgyelSbrul rgyal’s changchang supply to run dry. That night because of her disobedience Jomo GyelJo mo rgyal died and was turned into a walking corpse (rolangro lang). By touching DrülgyelSbrul rgyal and his disciples while they slept, they also became walking corpses. Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa is said to be still haunted by these ghosts and to be a dangerous place as a result. Although the characters and happenings in this tale do not seem very Buddhist-like, paleographic evidence indicates that in the early historic period this facility was in Buddhist hands. This is corroborated by Khechok DorjéMkhas mchog rdo rje (born in the Iron Dog Year, circa 1934) of TsamdaRtsa mda’, an individual knowledgeable in BönBon history (he was a student of Kyungtrül RinpochéKhyung sprul rin po che in NgariMnga’ ris for one year). He reports that the lama of Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa was named TrülchangSbrul chang, a Nyingmaparnying ma pa who attracted many disciples around him. Khepa DorjéMkhas pa rdo rje adds that TrülchangSbrul chang was born in KhamKhams a very long time ago.

The present incarnate lama of DunchuMdun chu monastery reports that the first Drukpa Kagyü’brug pa bka’ brgyud lama of DunchuMdun chu also spent time at Jomo RirangJo mo ri rang. The DunchuMdun chu lama adds that in the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, DunchuMdun chu was converted into a Gelukpadge lugs pa institution.

Site elements

SekhangGsas khang

On the east side of the single structure some bridging stones and roof slabs are in situ, but the rooms underneath them have been largely filled with rubble. The southeast corner of the edifice, at 2 m, is the highest elevation portion of the edifice remaining. In the south wall there is a 90 cm high opening overlaid with stone beams, which may have once been an entranceway but it is now partially obstructed by rubble. There is also an entrance in the southwest extremity of the structure (1.1 m by 45 cm).

ManiMa ṇi stones

The carved manima ṇi plaques found at the site document two distinctive periods of Buddhist occupation. The presence of these two styles of plaques confirms that the site has had a very long Buddhist tenure. The oldest plaques, which number 34, have Wuchendbu can lettering directly engraved into the stones, while the later plaques are made by removing the layer of stone surrounding the letters to create a relief carving. In the highly worn early plaques the letters are quite crudely executed and have a calligraphic form known from early historic period inscriptions and texts: elementary and rather stilted. All but two of the early plaques were made from a dark-colored stone. These older plaques rest on what appears to be the original shrine wall (8.5 m long, 50 cm thick and around 85 cm in height). This masonry wall is aligned in a north-south direction. Much of the southern extremity of this clay-mortared wall has collapsed. In Upper Tibet, it is highly unusual to discover inscribed plaques of sufficient age to have been carved during the first Buddhist diffusion (tenpa ngadarbstan pa snga dar).

Immediately north of the early manima ṇi wall there is a rectangular shrine (1.5 m by 1.5 m by 1.7 m), which is aligned in the cardinal directions. A few manima ṇi stones rest upon the flat top of this tenkharrten mkhar type shrine. This ceremonial structure is entirely made of random-rubble. On its south side there is a 90 cm deep hollow (35 cm by 45 cm), which must have been used to enshrine sacred materials or phenomena. The top of the shrine is comprised of dark-colored stone beams like those found at the other archaeological sites of Jomo RirangJo mo ri rang (A-54, B-23). The walls of Chilbu GönpaSpyil bu dgon pa begin 3.8 m north of this shrine. The later period manima ṇi stones are concentrated on their own rudimentary wall some distance away from the edifice.


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.