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

ApukA phug

Basic site data

  • Site name: ApukA phug
  • English equivalent: “A” Cave
  • Site number: B-115
  • Site typology: I.2c
  • Elevation: 4890 m
  • Administrative location (township): BargaBar ga
  • Administrative location (county): PurangSpu rang
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: April 26, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: A Buddhist retreat cave.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Buddhist religious accoutrements.
  • Maps: UTRS VI, UTRS X, HAS C4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

ApukA phug is located directly above the Drukpa Kagyü’brug pa bka’ brgyud monastery of Dzuntrül PukRdzu ’phrul phug, on the east side of the pilgrim’s circuit (Rikorri skor) around the holy mountain of Gangkar TiséGangs dkar ti se (Gang RinpochéGangs rin po che). BönBon tradition maintains that their ancient practitioners used this site. A 14.5 m long outer retaining wall was built up around ApukA phug, forming a 3 m- to 6-m wide level area in front of the cave. This area was used by inmates to sun themselves and for household chores, etc. The mud plastered masonry façade around ApukA phug is now in a state of disrepair. There is no indication of when these walls were constructed, but we might expect that they have been modified over the centuries. The cave consists of two outer chambers with a total length of 7 m. One of these chambers was used for cooking and one for sleeping. An inner chamber (2 m by 2.8 m) has a large white letter a on the ceiling that is said to have been self-formed. This inner chamber, the chapel of the cave, contains a large bay with three shelves that were used for religious articles, as well as a niche in the wall. Also in the inner chamber, low walls surround the place for meditation. These were designed to prevent practitioners from sprawling out.

Oral tradition

Tibetan Buddhists commonly believe that ApukA phug was used by the great saint MilarepaMi la ras pa (1040-1123) for meditation.

Textual tradition

According to Gang Tisé LogyüGangs ti se’i lo rgyus by the late Gang Riwa Chöying DorjéGangs ri ba chos dbyings rdo rje, it was Jetsün MilarepaRje btsun mi la ras pa who magically scrawled the letter a with his finger.102 The BönpoBon po, however, claim ApukA phug as their own. In the Tisé KarchakTi se’i dkar chag by Karru DrupwangDkar ru grub dbang (born 1801) it records that, “On the east side of the great gangrigangs ri (Snow Mountain) there is Ati Sangwa Yungdrung PukA ti gsang ba g.yung drung phug (Secret A ti Swastika Cave), ([now] called ApukA phug). The door of this cave has the shape of a letter a.”103

Site elements

Proximate caves

There are caves on either side of ApukA phug, five on the west side alone. These caves also have large retaining walls in front of them, creating sheltered level places for domestic use. There is a row of four more caves in the formation above the western edge of the DzuntrülRdzu ’phrul monastery precinct. Called PukchenPhug chen (Great Caves), these four caves are located in a conglomerate cliff. Near the two most westerly caves there are the highly fragmentary remains of two or three forward rooms.


[102] Gang Riwa Chöying DorjéGangs ri ba chos dbyings rdo rje, “Gang Tisé LogyüGangs ti se’i lo rgyus,” in Böjong NangtenBod ljongs nang bstan (Lhasa: bö jong shin haBod ljongs shin hwa, 1990), 58.
[103] kar ru drup wang ten dzin rin chenDkar ru grub dbang bstan ‘dzin rin chen, “Dzamling Ganggyel Tisé Karchak Tsangyang Yitrok’Dzam gling gangs rgyal ti se’i dkar chag tshangs dbyangs yid phrog.” in dzö puk tsa ba dang chi dön dang gang Tisé KarchakMdzod phug rtsa ba dang spyi don dang gangs ti se’i dkar chag (Dolanji: Tibetan Bonpo Monastic Centre: Dolanji, 1973), 520.

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.