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

Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do

Basic site data

  • Site name: Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do
  • English equivalent: Island of the Monastery
  • Site number: B-37
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4250 m
  • Administrative location (township): RutokRu thog
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 27, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The small island of Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do hosts the vestiges of all-stone residential structures. This island is located less than 1 km from the south shore of the freshwater lake Tsomo Ngangla RingtsoMtsho mo ngang la ring mtsho. Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do is only accessible on foot in the winter or by boat during other times of the year. This insular site must have provided the ancient settlers with a strong defensive posture. The early settlement of the island is liable to have had religious and geomantic dimensions connected to the sacred status of Tsomo Ngangla RingtsoMtsho mo ngang la ring mtsho. The placement of the residential facility in the midst of a lake goddess afforded it an innermost or secret aspect, as well as a mantle of social and economic exclusivity. There were no less than six habitational structures at Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do, which could have potentially housed more than two dozen people. The scant structural evidence preserved at the site indicates that these buildings were of the dokhangrdo khang type. All structures at Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do have a southern aspect and were constructed with random-rubble walls. These highly weathered walls were mud mortared but much of this adhesive material has disappeared with time.

Oral tradition

Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do is said by area residents to have been an ancient monastery.

Site elements

Island complex
West structures

On the 20 m high conical summit of the island there are faint traces of what must have been a ritual cairn (latséla btsas) or shrine of the tenkharrten mkhar or lhatsuglha gtsug class. Below the summit on the southwest side of the island there is a tiny ruined building (2.5 m by 2.5 m) built into a cliff. Its exterior walls reach 1.3 m and interior walls 90 cm in height. Adjacent to this structure there is a foundation (4 m by 4.7 m) that must have supported an independent building. On a wide bench 13.5 m to the south there are the ruins of a cubic shrine (1.3 m by 1.3 m by 50 cm). Upslope, or 13.5 m to the north of this shrine, there are scant remains at two levels under the summit. These are the probable vestiges of another building. On the same bench as the shrine, 8 m to the northeast, there are traces of another small residential structure whose rear flank was built into a steep slope (3.4 by 3.3 m). Another residential structure may be located 19 m southwest of the shrine but almost nothing of it has endured.

Best preserved building

A little more than 5 m northeast of the structure measuring 3.4 m by 3.3 m there is the best-preserved building at Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do. Its design and constructional features identify this structure as a dokhangrdo khang. This all-stone edifice was split between two elevations (6.7 m by 5.2 m). Its walls are 50 cm to 60 cm thick. The lower level has been mostly eliminated. The upper level consists of two rooms: southwest (90 cm by 1.3 m) and northeast (3 m by 1.8 m). These two rooms were built 1.2 m into the rear slope. The rear rooms are interconnected by a tiny entrance (60 cm by 60 cm). The tiny southwest compartment is too small to have been inhabited and must have had an alternative function (storage or ritual?). The forward wall of the rear tier attains a maximum height of 1.6 m. There is a small niche on the exterior side of the wall in front of the rear southwest room. Bits of mud plaster still stick to the interior walls of the edifice.

Other structures

Directly below the best-preserved edifice of Gönpé DoDgon pa’i do there are the vestiges of an adjacent building or outlying wing. Only small wall-footing fragments have survived. This once large structure was probably built in two tiers across an 11 m transverse section of the slope. There is another small building foundation (4 m by 3 m) 19 m northeast of the best-preserved 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.