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

Pukgu ChusumPhug dgu chu sum

Basic site data

  • Site name: Pukgu ChusumPhug dgu chu sum
  • English equivalent: Nine Retreat Shelters Three Streams
  • Site number: B-30
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 5140 m to 5160 m
  • Administrative location (township): DarmaDar ma
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: April 23, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Plaques inscribed with the manima ṇi mantra and the deity ChenrezikSpyan ras gzigs.
  • Maps: UTRS XI, HAS C6
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The nine dokhangrdo khang of Pukgu ChusumPhug dgu chu sum are found at the head of the TochuMtho chu Valley, an effluent of the Martsang TsangpoMar tshang gtsang po (Upper Brahmaputra River). The headwaters of the TochuMtho chu Valley form a closed amphitheatre with a spring and marsh with the Tsen LaRtsan la (sp.?) pass above the site. The nine all-stone residential structures of Pukgu ChusumPhug dgu chu sum are all more or less aligned in the cardinal directions and face in a southerly direction. This probable ancient religious site is extremely remote and seldom visited; although at one time it may have housed more that 50 residents. The dokhangrdo khang, while not well preserved, were superbly constructed from red stone. The rooms were generally small (around 4 m²) as is typical in all-stone corbelled edifices. The robustly constructed random-rubble slab walls are approximately 50 cm thick. A dark-colored rock of variable-length (up to 1 m long) was used in construction. Corbels and bridging stones up to 1.5 m in length are scattered all around the site.

Oral tradition

Pukgu ChusumPhug dgu chu sum is reported by local residents to be an ancient religious center.

Site elements

DokhangRdo khang complex

dokhangrdo khang RS1 and RS2 are situated at the bottom end of the site. Residential structures RS3, RS4 and RS5 are set approximately 5 m higher up on broad slopes. At 5 m more elevation are residential structures RS6 and RS7, the third level structures. Residential structure RS8, the fourth level structure, and residential structure RS9, the fifth level structure, were established some meters higher.

Residential Structure RS1

Residential structure RS1 measures 14 m (east-west) by 4.4 m (north-south). The east half of the dokhangrdo khang has been felled to its foundations. Near the east wall a tabular stone is planted in the ground. This Doringrdo ring was broken and is now only 45 cm in height (basal girth of 1.1 m). Perhaps the standing stone marked the establishment of the building, like at certain Lamaist sites. On the eastern half of the rear/north wall a large corbel protrudes 70 cm over the internal space. The rear wall was set 1 m to 1.2 m into the slope. A partition wall with a maximum height of 1.2 m divides the east and west halves of RS1. There is a small niche in the west side of the partition wall. In the west half of the structure there is a north-south oriented partition wall remnant.

Residential Structure RS2

Residential structure RS2 is located 16 m east of RS1. This large structure measures 17 m (east-west) by 7 m (north-south). On the west end of the ruin there is both a forward and rear room. In the west wall of this forward or south room there is a niche, and there is a niche in the rear wall of the rear west room as well. In the rear west room and the adjacent rear room there are corbels and bridging stones clinging to the rear wall. The portion of the outer rear wall in this area is built 1.6 m into the ground. The entranceway between these two rear rooms is intact (1.2 m by 50 cm). East of these two rear rooms, the rear tier of the dokhangrdo khang appears to have been comprised of one relatively large room. The east section of the rear wall is not so well preserved and extends 1 m or less into the slope. Adjacent to the forward west room there is another forward room that has collapsed. Among the detritus of this room are sheathing slabs up to 2 m in length. East of this collapsed room there is another forward room with an intact entranceway (1.1 m by 80 cm). Its north wall, at 1.8 m tall, is the highest remaining fragment at RS2. Farther east only exterior wall traces have endured in the forward part of the edifice.

Residential Structure RS3

Residential structure RS3 is located 13 m north of RS2. This poorly preserved structure measures 8 m (east-west) by 4 m (north-south). The northwest corner of the dokhangrdo khang constitutes its most undamaged portion and was built 1.1 m into the slope. In the north/rear wall near the west corner of RS3 there are two niches, one on top of the other.

Residential Structure RS4

Residential structure RS4 is situated 6 m northwest and slightly upslope of RS3. It measures 11 m (east-west) by 6.5 m (north-south). This structure has been mostly flattened to its foundations. Wall segments to 1 m in height exist near the southwest corner. There is a small niche in the west wall of RS4.

Residential Structure RS5

Residential structure RS5 is located 8 m west of RS4. Its dimensions are 14 m (east-west) by 5 m (north-south). Only external wall fragments up to 1 m in height have survived in this highly deteriorated structure.

Residential Structure RS6

Residential structure RS6 is situated 11.5 m north of RS5. The main portion of the building measures 6.3 m (east-west) by 3.5 m (north-south). There is also a lower/south (3.6 m by 2.8 m) extension containing one room centered in front of the main structure. The main structure is partitioned into three rooms. The east entrance opens to a vestibule that extended to the rear east room. The rear east room boasts a few in situ roof slabs. The rear and side walls of the dokhangrdo khang are partially intact. The rear or north wall of RS6 is set 1.3 m into the ground and the side walls reach 1.2 m in height. In the outer west wall there is a small niche.

Residential Structure RS7

Residential structure RS7 is found 24 m east of RS6. This smaller structure measures 6.2 m (east-west) by 4.9 m (north-south). The rear wall was built into the slope to a maximum depth of 1.5 m. In the largely whole rear wall, near the west corner, there is a small niche. The south or forward wall of RS7 stands to a height of 50 cm. The room partitions have been mostly destroyed.

Residential Structure RS8

Residential structure RS8 was established 17.5 m northwest of RS7 and 9.5 m north of RS6. This dokhangrdo khang measures 15 m (east-west) by 6 m (north-south). Most exterior walls now attain a height of 1 m or less; only the central portion of the forward wall is taller (1.4 m). In the southeast corner of the structure there is a partly integral room. About half of the rear wall of RS8 has survived.

Residential Structure RS9

Residential structure RS9 measures 8.4 m (east-west) by 5 m (north-south). The east side of this building has been razed to the ground. On the west of the structure, side wall segments up to 1.3 m in height have persisted. Both a forward room and rear room are discernable in RS9.

Buddhist shrine

Some 48 m south of the dokhangrdo khang complex, across the valley divide, there is a neglected Buddhist shrine complex, consisting of the base of a chötenmchod rten or tenkharrten mkhar class shrine connected to walls that run north-south. This masonry base (3 m by 3.2 m) is best preserved on the west side where it is 1.4 m in height. Straight walls rise above a broader 40 cm high basal section. There is no evidence of a bumpabum pa or any other kind of superstructure. It was constructed of dark bluish slabs that have weathered to a red color, 20 cm to 60 cm in length and 2 cm to 8 cm in thickness. These stones were laid in random-work, dry-stone courses. On the south side of this cubic structure there is a wall 9 m in length, which has been reduced to 50 cm in height. This wall appears to have been originally around 1 m thick. Another wall links the big shrine to a smaller shrine situated 8 m to the north. This linking wall has been almost obliterated and the smaller shrine is very poorly preserved. The inscribed plaques found at the site are all highly eroded and feature the manima ṇi mantra.

A 1 m high plaque partially submerged in the soil sits in the shrine complex. This plaque features a standing ChenrezikSpyan ras gzigs (Avalokiteśvara) figure adeptly carved in shallow relief. It appears to date to the period of the second Buddhist diffusion (tenpa chidarbstan pa phyi dar). This highly worn relief plaque of Tibet’s patron deity documents the Buddhist occupation of Pukgu ChusumPhug dgu chu sum as early as one millennium ago. The implication of this Buddhist artifact may be that the residential facility, after first being established by archaic religious practitioners, was reoccupied by the Buddhists. This reoccupation was probably nominal given the extreme elevation of the site. Moreover, no fixed Buddhist emblems are found near the dokhangrdo khang.

The ChenrezikSpyan ras gzigs bas relief image is ornamented with two necklaces, earrings and a five-diadem crown. The figure is attired in an Indian style skirt and holds the stem of a lotus in each hand. Below the deity, a butter lamp (Marmémar me) and sacrificial cake (Tormagtor ma) were carved and lower on the plaque, swirling lines represent the world ocean. Above the deity’s head the sun is on the right side and the moon on the left side. Also, on the left side of the deity, a vertically oriented inscription reads: jo bo ti bzang po la na mo , and on its right side there is the inscription: oṃ a hum. Jowoti ZangpoJo bo ti bzang po is an old Upper Tibetan manifestation of ChenrezikSpyan ras gzigs.

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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.