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

Taser GokMtha’ ser gog

Basic site data

  • Site name: Taser GokMtha’ ser gog
  • English equivalent: Yellow Ruin at the Margin
  • Site number: B-38
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4440 m
  • Administrative location (township): RawangRa bang
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: June 2, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: A wall with inscribed plaques of the manima ṇi mantra.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Taser GokMtha’ ser gog, sits on the west or left side of the Tönkha LungMthon kha lung valley. This probable all-stone building is so named for its location at the margin of the marshy valley bottom and the well-drained slopes of the adjoining ridge. The archaic design and construction of Taser GokMtha’ ser gog indicate that it was a dokhangrdo khang. The structure is situated at the foot of a prominent red formation, approximately 3 km up valley from the contemporary village of Tönkha LungMthon kha lung. The building faces east, the direction of the one exterior entryway. Significant exterior wall and interior partition segments are intact, reaching 1 m to 2 m in elevation. None of the roof appurtenances, however, have survived intact. The overall dimensions of the five-room edifice are 9.3 m (north-south) by 8.6 m (east-west). There is also a very poorly preserved small structural extension on the northeast side of the building. Taser GokMtha’ ser gog contains three rear/west rooms and two forward/east rooms divided from one another by a corridor.

Oral tradition

According to local elders, Taser GokMtha’ ser gog was being used as a retreat house several generations ago.

Site elements

Residential complex
Main edifice

The 60 cm- to 80 cm-thick walls of the main edifice are robust and somewhat irregular in plan. The mud-mortared, random-work walls are composed of both granite and dark gray metamorphic blocks and slabs. The stones are primarily 10 cm to 60 cm in length, and reach a maximum length of 1.3 m. Most of the exterior faces of the stones were cut flat. The exterior rear or west wall of the main edifice has a height of 1.5 m and an interior height of 2.3 m, illustrating the way in which the rear rooms were built into the slope, according them a semi-subterranean aspect. The interior corners of the rooms are somewhat rounded, another common design feature of dokhangrdo khang architecture. There are small areas of clay-based plaster remaining on the interior walls of the building, especially in the northwest room. There are also small traces of ochre tinted plaster on the exterior north wall.

The northwest room (2.3 m by 4.4 m) of the rear tier is the largest in the main edifice (it may have been partially divided by a partition wall). The wall dividing the northwest and central west rooms of the rear tier (80 cm thick) still reaches its original height of 1.7 m in some places. This partition wall was massively constructed to support the great weight of a stone roof. There is a central corridor that runs between the rear and forward tier of rooms. This corridor is up to 1.5 m in width and directly connected to the outer entrance vestibule (1.3 m by 2.6 m). An approximately 70 cm wide entrance in the south wall of the corridor leads to the northwest room. The central west room (2.5 m by 3.2 m) of the rear tier appears to have been one undivided space. The southwest room (1.6 m by 4.4 m) of the rear tier may have been broken into east and west parts by a buttress that served as an intermediate load-bearing structure. The northeast room of the forward tier (2.6 m by 2.5 m) is particularly decrepit. The southeast room (2.4 m by 3.7 m) of the forward tier has its entrance in the north wall of the vestibule. The southeast room is bisected north-south by a 1.2 m long buttress, which helped to support the stone roof.

Outbound structures

Adjacent to the south side of the main edifice there is a now disused corral. Its construction was undoubtedly destructive to the religious center, which provided a ready source of building materials for the drokpa’brog pa herders. Three meters north of the main dokhangrdo khang there is a fragmentary foundation (4.4 m by 4 m). There may also be a small building foundation on the north side of the main edifice. There are the remains of a cubic shrine (1.1 m by 90 cm by 1 m) reposing on a slope, 14 m southwest of the main building This shrine was skillfully constructed of dressed stones and was mud mortared. There is a foundation of what appears to have been a building with two rooms (3 m by 7.5 m) situated 30 m uphill of the main edifice. It was built with a cliff as its backdrop. A forward wall segment in this structure reaches 1.2 m in height. There is some structural evidence to indicate that a wall followed the line of the slope south of the main edifice and this upper level structure.

Buddhist shrines

A wall with inscribed plaques is found immediately west or upslope of the main dokhangrdo khang. There are still many old carved stones at this shrine. Some distance down valley of Taser GokMtha’ ser gog there is a ruined chötenmchod rten. It was also built on the left edge of the valley and is composed of dark gray metamorphic stones.

Tönkha LungMthon kha lung agriculture

In the contemporary period, cultivation is carried out in the lower reaches of the Tönkha LungMthon kha lung valley. This agriculture, however, is minimal and many fields lie fallow each year. It would appear that more intensive agriculture was practiced when the valley’s water was in more plentiful supply.


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.