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

TakchenStag chen

Basic site data

  • Site name: TakchenStag chen
  • English equivalent: Great Tiger / Great Warrior
  • Site number: B-29
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 5080 m
  • Administrative location (township): DrowaGro ba
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 26, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None
  • Maps: UTRS VIII
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The three residential edifices of TakchenStag chen are named after the valley in which they were founded. They are situated on steep slopes above the grazing lands of the valley floor. The three edifices were built at the same general elevation and look out on the water rich Nyawa TsangpoNya ba gtsang po basin. They are likely, at least in part, to have had a religious function. These sekhanggsas khang/sekhargsas mkhar type edifices are designated the north dokhangrdo khang, southeast dokhangrdo khang and southwest dokhangrdo khang. The stonework of these all-stone corbelled structures is very similar to KyarangKya rang (B-28). They were built of dark sandstone-like slabs laid in random-work courses. Several tens of people may have once inhabited TakchenStag chen, one of three dokhangrdo khang sites in the vicinity (see B-27 and B-28). The area, however, is now completely uninhabited, not least of all because of its high elevation and severe climate.

Oral tradition

According to local drokpa’brog pa, TakchenStag chen is an ancient religious center.

Site elements

All-stone edifices
North dokhangrdo khang

This irregularly-shaped north dokhangrdo khang is the smallest of TakchenStag chen’s three edifices. It overlooks a branch of the TakchenStag chen valley endowed with running water. Its dimensions are 3.9 m (north-south) by 3.5 m (south wall) to 4.3 m (north wall). Additionally, on the southwest side of the structure there are the remains of an adjoining room (2.4 m by 1.4 m). The rear or upslope wall of the structure was built 90 cm into the ground, while the forward or east wall has a maximum standing height of 2.5 m. A couple of corbels still rest on the rear wall. The other walls of the north dokhangrdo khang are highly fragmentary.

The main entrance in the north dokhangrdo khang is found in the south wall (1.5 m by 80 cm) and it has an intact lintel. From the outer entrance a vestibule (1.8 m by 70 cm) accesses its two rooms. The east room entrance (1.5 m by 70 cm) is situated halfway down the vestibule and the west room is accessed from the rear of the vestibule via another entranceway (1.4 m by 70 cm). The east room (3 m by 90 cm to 1.1 m) runs nearly the entire north-south length of the building. The floor-to-ceiling in the east room clearance is around 1.7 m. There is a window opening in the forward wall (40 cm by 40 cm) as well as a small damaged niche. The typically constructed all-stone roof over the east room is more than 50% intact. The west room (1.6 m by 1.5 m) has a floor-to-ceiling height of 1.4 m. The mostly intact roof is flush with the uphill or west slope. Adjacent to the west side of the vestibule, there is a space raised above the floor level (1 m by 1.2 m), which may have been used for storage. On the south side of the building there is a walled landing (8 m by 6 m). Walls bounding this landing have a maximum height of 1.6 m. Two attached wall remnants may have been part of a stairway leading up to this elevated masonry mass.

Southeast dokhangrdo khang

The southeast dokhangrdo khang is perched above the same branch valley as the north dokhangrdo khang, some 42 m to the south. The external dimensions of this irregularly-shaped structure are 11 m (west wall), 6.5 m (south wall), 11.8 m (east wall), and 3 m (north wall). Natural rock formations make up a significant portion of its external north and south walls. The building has forward/lower, middle and rear/upper tiers of rooms. Roof slabs strewn around the site are 1 m or more in length.

The larger forward tier of the southeast dokhangrdo khang is in an advanced state of decay. It has foundation walls at two different levels and potentially supported four or more rooms. The lower-most wall segments may have been part of the main entrance to the building. Three steps lead up from the lower tier to the middle tier entrance (1.1 m by 70 cm), which is found in a wall section 2.3 m in height. The remains of several rooms are found in the middle tier.

The rear or north wall of the dokhangrdo khang extends 1 m below the slope and more than 1 m above it. Due to in-filling, the corbels in the north wall are now suspended just 1.2 m above the floor. There are two rooms in the upper tier and they share the same east-facing entranceway. The rear north room (3.3 m by 2 m to 2.2 m) has a maximum floor-to-ceiling height of 2 m. It is partitioned into two sections by a wall jutting 60 cm from the rear of the structure. A roof slab still rests on this partition wall. The back half of the rear south room (3 m by 1.1 m) is still covered by the roof. There is a small stone table in the back of the rear south room.

Southwest dokhangrdo khang

The southwest dokhangrdo khang of TakchenStag chen is situated 40 m west of the southeast dokhangrdo khang on the opposite side of a rocky rib. It sits astride a rock outcrop that rises above a waterless ravine. The southwest dokhangrdo khang has a maximum forward elevation of nearly 6 m, making it a particularly high profile all-stone edifice. The exterior dimensions of this long narrow, east-facing structure are 17.7 m (east wall), 5.3 m (north wall), 18.3 m (west wall), and 3 m (south wall). The upper part of the rear wall is flush with the slope while the forward wall stands as much as 4.3 m in height. The forward wall is set on a prominent revetment (up to 1.6 m in height), endowing it with a very high elevation. The southwest dokhangrdo khang contains a single line of six rooms. This edifice is locally referred to as Takchen NamgoStag chen gnam sgo (Great Tiger Sky Door), on account of its narrow two-story entrance open to the sky above (although it was once fully enclosed by a roof).

There were two entrances to the southwest dokhangrdo khang, which accessed a north suite and a south suite consisting of three rooms each. The north entranceway has been obliterated; it was located in the northern-most room (room 1). The main entranceway (1.5 m by 70 cm) is on the east side of the edifice along the highest elevation section of the forward wall of the structure.

Room 1 (3.6 m by 2 m) of the north suite has no roof left and only fractional walls. Room 2 (3 m by 3 m) is accessed by an internal entrance (1.2 m by 70 cm) that opens onto room 1. Like rooms in the south suite, the rear or west wall of room 2 is largely composed of an uneven rock face. In the east or forward wall there is a window (30 cm by 25 cm). In the north wall there is a small niche. Most of the roof over room 2 is missing; its floor-to-ceiling height is around 1.6 m. Room 3 (2.5 m by 2.3 m) shares an internal entrance (1 m by 70 cm) with room 2. Part of room 3 was walled off to create a separate chamber. None of the roof over room 3 has survived.

Room 4 (2.7 m by 2 m) of the south suite is isolated from room 3; it is accessed via the main entrance and room 5. More than 50% of the roof is intact, and its floor-to-ceiling height is a maximum of 1.5 m. The longest in situ roof member is 1.4 m. There is a small stone table inside room 4.

The entrance between room 4 and room 5 is 1 m in height and 70 cm width. Room 5 (3.1 m by 3 m) has direct access to the east-facing entrance of the southwest dokhangrdo khang. The entrance is located directly below room 5. There is one niche in the south wall of room 5. Much of the roof over this room has been destroyed. The floor-to-ceiling clearance is around 1.5 m. In room 5 there is a 60 cm wide passageway that descends 2.5 m to the main entrance. Stairs must have once been installed in this vertical passageway but few signs of them remain. An internal entrance (1 m by 60 cm) connects room 5 and room 6, the most northerly compartment in the dokhangrdo khang. Much of room 6 (3.2 m by 2 m) is filled with rubble and only a small portion of its roof has endured.

Outlying structures

Below the outcrop on which the southwest dokhangrdo khang stands there is a terrace (10 m by 4 m to 5 m or more) formed by a forward retaining wall up to 1.5 m in height. In the gully just above Takchen NamgoStag chen gnam sgo there is a rectangular ceremonial structure (1.8 m by 80 cm). This shrine structure is 80 cm high on its downhill side and flush with the surface on the uphill side (its semi-subterranean aspect may be connected to the worship of chthonic spirits). On the ridge south of the southwest dokhangrdo khang there is a poorly preserved square shrine structure (1.7 m by 1.7 m by 70 cm). These two ceremonial structures are possibly shrines of the tenkharrten mkhar class, but they do not appear to have hollow interiors. They may instead have functioned as platforms that supported certain types of ritual articles.

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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.