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

Shötram PukShod tram phug

Basic site data

  • Site name: Shötram PukShod tram phug
  • Alternative site name: Shötram PukShod kram phug
  • Alternative site name 2: Shotram PukSho khram phug
  • Site number: B-116
  • Site typology: I.2c
  • Elevation: 5350 m
  • Administrative location (township): TagoSta rgo
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 21, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: A pilgrimage site for BönpoBon po devotees and spirit-mediums.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Affixed to the smoke-blackened roof of the cave there are the usual offerings left by pilgrims: dabs of butter, tufts of white wool, paper prayer flags (lungtarlung rta) and old protection cords blessed by lamas (sungdüsrung mdud).
  • Maps: UTRS VIII
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Shötram PukShod tram phug is the fabled cave of Upper Tibet’s spirit-mediums (lhapalha pa/pawodpa’ bo). This is where spirit-mediums go for prayer, purification and to test their aptitude for embodying the divinities.104 This modest site is situated on the east slopes of Tago Ngömar LhatsenRta rgo ngo dmar lha btsan, one of the nine major peaks of the TagoRta rgo range. The so-called cave is found in the proximity of the sacred tarn known as Nakmer TsoNag mer mtsho. This cave is actually a cavity (3.2 m by 3.2 m) excavated underneath a large flat boulder. Stonewalls and a stone façade (up to 1.6 m high) prop up the roof. Outer walls also have been built around the cave to produce open-air sitting and work areas. The rudimentary random-rubble, dry-stone walls covered in orange lichen appear to have stood for a long time.

Oral tradition

Shötram PukShod tram phug is an ancient monument used by the spirit-mediums of yore. According to the spirit-medium Karma RindzinKarma rig ’dzin (born circa 1935), the Vajrayāna master Guru RinpochéGu ru rin po che (8th century CE) went to Shötram PukShod tram phug and magically raised its ceiling, after being defeated by the mountain god Ngomar LhatsenNgo dmar lha btsan in a contest for supremacy. 105

Textual tradition

Shötram PukShod tram phug is a cave associated with the great BönBon dzokchenrdzogs chen master Mushö TramchenDmu shod tram chen.106 His tenure in the nearby valley of Nyima LungNyi ma lung is documented in Zhang Zhung Nyengyü Lamé NamtarZhang zhung snyan rgyud bla ma’i rnam thar by Patön Tengyel ZangpoSpa ston bstan rgyal bzang po (14th or 15th century CE) (Bellezza 2005: 70; Reynolds 2005: 135, 481).107 According to Lekshé DzöLegs bshad mdzod by Drupwang Trashi GyeltsenGrub dbang bkra shis rgyal mtshan (1859-1935), Mushö TramDmu shod kram (probably circa tenth century CE), a jalü pa’ja’ lus pa (obtainer of a rainbow body) who meditated at Gangnyen TagoGangs gnyan rta sgo, passed away at the age of 117 in the manner of a lion jumping into the sky.108

Site elements

Rock shelter

The 90 cm high entrance to the rock shelter is in the northeast, in the front wall propping up the overarching boulder. There are also less well-built outer walls, creating two small courtyards on either side of a central corridor. This corridor leads directly to the entrance of the cave. The courtyards and corridor cover an area of 7.5 m by 3.5 m. The ceiling of the cave slopes down towards the entrance. Inside there is a single small stone platform.

Nakmer TsoNag mer mtsho

A masonry wall on which inscribed plaques have been placed, built sometime in the pre-Communist period, surrounds the small spring-fed tarn of Nakmer TsoNag mer mtsho (5370 m). True to its name, this body of water is often black in color. In the sacred geography of the region it is envisioned as the right eye of the great lake goddess Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho. Religious adepts are said to obtain visions by gazing into Nakmer TsoNag mer mtsho.


[104] Bellezza, Calling Down the Gods.
[105] Bellezza, Calling Down the Gods, 157, 158.
[106] John Vincent Bellezza, Divine Dyads: Ancient Civilization in Tibet, (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1997), 403.
[107] Bellezza, Calling Down the Gods, 70; John M. Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung: An Introduction to the Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings of the Oral Tradition from Zhang-zhung known as the Zhang-zhung snyan-rgyud (Kathmandu: Vajra Publications, 2005), 135, 481.
[108] Samten Karmay, trans, The Treasury of Good Sayings: A Tibetan History of Bon, (London: Oxford University Press, 1972), 56, 147a.

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.