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

YüllungYul lung

Basic site data

  • Site name: YüllungYul lung
  • English equivalent: Village Habitation
  • Site number: B-79
  • Site typology: I.2b
  • Elevation: 4470 m to 4490 m
  • Administrative location (township): DerokSde rog
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 23, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The agrarian settlement of YüllungYul lung was founded on the west half of an ancient alluvial fan, which formed in the mouth of the YüllungYul lung valley, a tributary of the SherangShe rang valley. The stable geomorphology of the site and perennial water sources permitted the founding of a large settlement here. To the south and west there is a zone of extensive agricultural lands that appears to have lain fallow for centuries. YüllungYul lung begins just above the valley floor and extends up a gradually inclined slope for 20 m vertical. The nucleus of settlement is situated in the southwest sector of the site and is dispersed over 6500m², in a dense aggregation of substantial structures. There are also several ruined buildings in the northeast sector of the site. This agrarian settlement potentially supported hundreds of inhabitants. Ironically, not even one permanent pastoral camp (Günsadgun sa) still exists in the she rang valley.

The residential structures are very much degraded; all that remain are highly fractional walls and footings buried among huge piles of loose rubble. It would appear that the village was made up of large multi-roomed buildings set in a contiguous array. The room spans, wall design and the fact that there are no stone roof members among the ruins indicate that these edifices were constructed with wooden roofs. Timbers of poplar and willow are available in RutokRu thog, and are plentiful in the adjacent regions of LadakLa dwags (Ladakh) and KhunuKhu nu (Kinnaur).

Oral tradition

Local sources refer to YüllungYul lung as an ancient Kel MönSkal mon village.

Site elements

Main village
Construction traits

The remains of the various edifices of YarlungYul lung have 50 cm- to 80 cm-thick random-rubble walls composed of unworked granite. These rounded stones required copious amounts of mud-mortar to be applied to the joints. Many of the granite blocks have a yellowish patina and orange climax lichen growing on them, indicating that they have been exposed to the elements for quite awhile. A significant amount of a metamorphic gray stone was also used to build the structures. In places, the rear slope walls were built into the ground to a depth of 1 m. Standing walls still commonly reach 50 cm to 1.2 m in height. In certain structures there are circular pits approximately 1 m in depth. Shepherds may have once used these pits as shelters.

Main village largest edifices

At the northeast corner of the main village there is a building (27 m by 27 m) with walls up to 2 m in height. Much of this multi-roomed edifice, however, has been reduced to its foundations. On the south or lower side of this building there are granite boulders resting on the surface or partially buried, which appear to have been integrated into it as a cyclopean structure. These boulders are up to 1.4 m in length and 1 m in height. There appears to be another monumental building in the south part of the main village but the melding of its ruins with adjacent structures makes it difficult to gauge its size.

Main village shrine

At the southwest corner of the main village there are the vestiges of a shrine complex. These cubic and rectangular shaped structures have the following dimensions: 1) 2 m by 2 m by 80 cm, 2) 1.6 m by 1.6 m by 1.1 m, 3) 4.2 m by 1.9 by 70 cm, and 4) 5.5 m by 1.6 m by 1.2 m. These random-rubble mud-mortared constructions appear to be solid. There are no signs of superstructures or embellishments remaining at the shrines. In close proximity there is a highly eroded adobe-block foundation (7.3 m by 5.2 m), the only one of its kind at YüllungYul lung.

Large enclosure

North of the main village there are the substantial remains of walls forming an irregularly shaped enclosure open on its south side (45 m by 28 m by 24 by 33 m). These enclosing walls are 80 cm to 1 m in thickness and up to 1 m in height. With the exception of one or two small foundations this enclosure appears to have been devoid of structures. On the south edge of the defunct village there are several modern corrals whose construction has had little impact on the vast amounts of stone detritus found at the site.

North sector

There are the remains of two more important buildings 20 m north or upslope of the large enclosure on the north end of the main village. These two buildings are spaced 28 m from one another. Both the east specimen (15.7 m by 15 m) and west specimen (15 m by 17 m) have been reduced to fragmentary footings and wall segments. There is another large building (22 m by 17 m) 32 m north of the northeast corner of the main village. It is located at the northeastern extremity of the YüllungYul lung site.

SherangShes rang agriculture

On the left or northeast side of the SherangShes rang valley there is a large swath of defunct agricultural parcels. This broad belt of old farmland extends from above the mouth of the SherangShes rang valley to the upper extent of YüllungYul lung, situated approximately 4 km upstream. The many old fields have been long abandoned as evidenced by a thin layer of gravel that has been deposited over most of them, and the leveling of all the stone walls (Zhingrazhing ra) that once bounded the various plots. According to local tradition, these lands were tilled by the ancient Kel MönSkal mon people.

Up valley from YüllungYul lung there are no signs of agriculture for a distance of 3 km. Higher up the SherangShes rang valley there is the ancient agricultural enclave of DzingrülRdzing rul (Ruined Reservoir). The locale is so named for the destruction of its ancient irrigation system. Most of the extensive so-called Kel MönSkal mon fields of DzingrülRdzing rul have been damaged through flooding. The residents of DechöSde chos and Lung NgakLung ngag, using the water of the Sherang ChuShe rang chu, have brought a small fraction of these fields back into production, however, in the year that this survey was conducted (2002) no cultivation was being carried out here. The intensive cultivation of the SherangShe rang valley could only have occurred when water resources were much more plentiful than they are today. The long-term desiccation of the region must have been a primary factor in the depopulation of SherangShe rang, anthropogenic factors notwithstanding. Farther up valley, at KharlungMkhar lung, there is the highest elevation agricultural pocket in the SherangShe rang valley (4600 m). These ancient fields remain neglected.

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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.