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

Jiu Singpé KharByi’u sing pa’i mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Jiu Singpé KharByi’u sing pa’i mkhar
  • English equivalent: Little Bird Castle of the sing pa
  • Site number: B-78
  • Site typology: I.2x
  • Elevation: 4660 m
  • Administrative location (township): BargaBar ga
  • Administrative location (county): PurangSpu rang
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 7, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS X, HAS C4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Jiu Singpé KharByi’u sing pa’i mkhar is situated less than 2 km south of the famous monastery of JiuByi’u, on a bluff overlooking Mapam YutsoMa pham g.yu mtsho. These ostensible residential remains are situated immediately south of the lake outlet known as Gangga ChuGang ga chu. The main concentration of structures covers approximately 400m², between a rocky knob in the east and a cliff face in the west. Until quite recently, significant walls were found here but they have been dismantled and the stones removed to build structures at the burgeoning JiuByi’u village. A road passes directly below the site so it was relatively easy to haul the stones away by truck. Virtually only one section of an east-west running revetment has survived intact, otherwise the site is blanketed in loose uncut blocks of limestone. The integral revetment is 11 m in length and parallels the axis of the bluff and ridge above it. This wall was primarily built of large stones (up to 1.1 m in length) set in random courses. On the higher reaches of the bluff, possible wall-footings are found among old and new cairns.

The local identification of the Jiu Singpé KharByi'u sing pa'i mkhar as a stronghold may not be correct. There was a hilltop fortress at nearby JiuByi’u, a much more strategically sound location (A-82), and this would appear to obviate the military value of the site. Immediately to the west of the facility there is higher ground from which a devastating attack could have been launched. Upper Tibetan fortresses of the archaic cultural horizon were never established in such vulnerable locations. It is more plausible that this site was a religious center of some kind. The lack of a localized Buddhist identity and the site’s attribution to a foreign group potentially allude to an archaic cultural origin, but morphological evidence is lacking at the site.

Oral tradition

Local elders state that Jiu Singpé KharByi’u sing pa’i mkhar was a castle of the SingpaSing pa.

Affiliated sites

Funerary cairns

There are long, slim, tapering cairns on top of the bluff at Jiu Singpé KharByi’u sing pa’i mkhar. Local sources refer to these as möndomon rdo (stones of the MönMon), and are said to have been erected by people of Himalayan origin whilst on pilgrimage to Mapam YutsoMa pham g.yu mtsho. These pre-modern shrines were raised to commemorate the recent death of family members, a custom found among various Himalayan rim-land peoples of Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh. The placement of these shrines on high ground mimics the much older custom of building tombs on mountaintops in Upper Tibet.

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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.