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

PukchenPhug chen

Basic site data

  • Site name: PukchenPhug chen
  • English equivalent: Great Retreat Shelter
  • Site number: B-27
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4980 m
  • Administrative location (township): DrowaGro ba
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 25, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: A small wall with manima ṇi plaques.
  • Maps: UTRS VIII
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Floorplan
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The all-stone corbelled edifice of PukchenPhug chen is found at the foot of a mountain of the same name. The site occupies well-drained, moderately sloping sandy and rocky ground. To the east there is a stream running through the swampy PukrongPhug rong valley bottom, an effluent of the Nyawa TsangpoNya ba gtsang po. The relatively lush pasturage in the Nyawa TsangpoNya ba gtsang po basin must have endowed the region with the economic power to establish Pukchenphug chen, as well as other proximate sites (B-28, B-29, A-74, A-75, A-76). The skillfully built walls of this probable religious center are composed of dry-stone random-rubble. The walls contain dark-colored dressed slabs, primarily 40 cm to 65 cm in length and 5 cm to 15 cm in thickness.

The relatively large main entrance and two exterior windows may possibly identify PukchenPhug chen as having an early historic period origin. It cannot be determined if this facility originally belonged to the BönpoBon po or Buddhists. The strong degree of interactivity between these two religions throughout the early historic period is suggested by the juxtaposition of their motifs in the petroglyphic art of ShaksangBshag bsangs, a site located 25 km to the east (I-16). The rivalries and alliances implicit in this rock art record may have had a bearing on the cultural legacy of PukchenPhug chen. There is no permanent contemporary settlement in the area and this probably helped save the monument from vandalism and pilferage. PukchenPhug chen could probably be rehabilitated as an archaeological monument with relatively minimal effort and resources (provided the right expertise is available).

Oral tradition

Local drokpa’brog pa recognize PukchenPhug chen as an ancient religious site. According to one octogenarian, the facility was once inhabited by Menri TrülkuSman ri sprul sku, a Buddhist lama from MenriSman ri monastery in KhamKhams. Afterwards, a lama from a certain TaklungStag lung monastery is said to have occupied the site.

Site elements

PukchenPhug chen (13 m by 11 m), like many other all-stone corbelled edifices, has a semi-subterranean aspect; its rear or west wall is set 80 cm to 1.1 m into the ground. The height of the interior rear wall in the north room is 2.2 m, more than half of which is underground. The structure was built in three tiers, the most forward of which is a courtyard. The middle tier and rear tier consist of two rooms each; these rooms average 3.2 m² to 4 m² in size and 1.7 m to 2.2 m in floor-to-ceiling height. Much of the roof over these four rooms has been preserved. The highest elevation freestanding wall is the forward section of the south wall (2.5 m). The independent walls of the courtyard are up to 1.8 m in height. The courtyard (5 m by 5 m) entrance is in its forward wall. A separate wing of PukchenPhug chen is located on the north side of the standing structures, and has been reduced to its foundations. It occupies a 9.6 m (east-west) by 4.8 m (north-south) portion of the total extent of the building.

The main entrance (1.6 m by 90 cm) to the four rooms of the two upper tiers is in the rear (west) wall of the courtyard. It accesses a small vestibule that leads to the middle tier north room. There is a 50 cm wide window in the east wall of this room. In the west wall of the middle tier north room there is the entranceway to the rear tier north room. This 80 cm wide entranceway is obstructed by rubble but appears to be less that 1 m in height. There is also a window (40 cm by 45 cm) in the wall dividing the middle tier north room and rear tier rooms. South of the middle tier north room there is an interclose (60 cm to 1.5 m in long, 90 cm wide) leading to the middle tier south room. A typically constructed portal in the west wall of the middle tier south room accesses the rear tier south room. There is a small window opening (12 cm by 25 cm) in the south wall of the middle tier south room.


Near the edifice there is an all-stone cubic shrine (1.6 m by 1.6 m by 1 m). Its roof is partially intact. A hollow in this shrine was presumably used to enshrine Tsatsatshwa tshwa but none are to be found inside. Beside this shrine there is a small wall with inscribed plaques.


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.