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

Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong
  • English equivalent: Abandoned Village of Puling
  • Site number: B-83
  • Site typology: I.2b
  • Elevation: 4360 m
  • Administrative location (township): TsarangRtsa rang
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: October 22, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Minimal pastoral activity.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong is located on the north side of the Puling ChuSpu gling chu, opposite the contemporary village of PulingSpu gling. The buildings at Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong were skillfully and substantially built, unlike the crude stone walls and adobe superstructures of the present-day village.128 The buildings of Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong formed three tight clusters on the crest and flank of a ridge, and cover an area of approximately 2000 m² site. On the south and east sides of the ridge there are sheer 60 m drops to the Puling ChuSpu gling chu. There are three sectors of aggregated residential ruins: south, central and north. The uniform design and construction traits show that this was probably an integrated site in terms of cultural orientation and chronology. Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong appears to have been a much more developed and populous village than its present-day counterpart. Several corrals have been constructed near the ruins, but the extraction of stones for their construction has had a minimal impact on the site due to its large mass.

Oral tradition

According to an older resident of PulingSpu gling named SamdrupBsam grub, Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong was an ancient MönMon village. It is reported that in pre-modern times Indian traders used to camp at Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong.

Site elements

Ancient village

The structures of Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong are very decayed and only a few wall fragments over 1 m in height have survived. Ground plans are now highly ambiguous. In fact, much of the site consists merely of piles of rubble. Rear walls were often set deeply into the slope giving the edifices a semi-subterranean aspect. Walls (around 60 cm thick) have a random-rubble texture and contain variable-length stones (generally 15 cm to 60 cm long), which were hewn flat on their exterior sides. A gray and tan rock (resembling sandstone) was used in construction. The remains are highly weathered and most of the clay-based mortar has washed out of the seams. The type of wall construction shows that most or all of the buildings of Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong were built with wooden roofs.

South sector

The south sector is spread over the crest and east flank of the ridge. It measures 30 m (east-west) by 35 m (north-south). The south sector consists of a dense collection of interconnected residences built at three or four levels. On the east slope below the main cluster of structures there are one or two ruined small buildings. Rear walls were customarily built into the uphill slope to a depth of 1.6 m. In several places, rear walls have rounded corners. Revetments shoring up the structures are up to 1.5 m in height. On the south flank of the hill, about one-half the distance to the Puling ChuSpu gling chu, there appears to be a minor archaeological dispersion but only a few wall fragments are extant.

Central sector

The central sector is situated 12 m north of the south sector. Measuring 15 m (east-west) by 14 m (north-south), it extends across the edge of the crest of the sandy ridge and along its east flank. The central sector contained approximately 15 interconnected rooms/buildings built at various elevations along a steep slope gradient. At the northeast corner of the dispersion there is a free-standing wall segment 1.8 m in height. Other walls 1 m to 1.5 m in height have also persisted, but generally the remains are highly fragmentary. Rear walls are built into the slope to a depth of 1.3 m. On the southwest side of the central sector there is a niche (40 cm by 40 cm by 35 cm) in a wall at ground level. On the crest of the ridge adjacent to the west side of the central sector there is possibly a small extension of the site, but too little remains on the surface to make a positive determination.

North sector

The north sector is found within a few meters of the central sector and measures 23 m (east-west) by 20 m (north-south). A substantial portion of the north sector extends to the west flank of the ridge, as well as covering the summit and a little of the east slope. This was another conterminous zone of residences. An extension of the west slope structures continues all the way to the ceremonial structure (see below). This extension covers an area of 7 m (east-west) by 11.5 m (north-south). The remains located in the west slope extension are set into the slope to a depth of 2 m. North of the north sector, along the rim of the east slope, there are traces of substantial revetments (up to 1.5 m high). These probably mark another building site.

Shrine complex

On the summit of Puling YültongSpu gling yul stong, between the south and central sectors, there is the ceremonial component of the site. It consists of a square masonry plinth, measuring 4.8 m on each side, which is aligned in the cardinal directions. This plinth extends 50 cm out of the ground on its north side and 80 cm on its east side. The south and west side of the plinth are flush with the ground surface. This setting appears to be an original design feature because there is no visible evidence of geomorphologic modification to the local terrain. Upon the plinth there is a superstructure (up to 2 m high) that appears to have consisted of a large cubic element surmounted by a smaller, possibly spherical erection. In the top of the structure there is a cavity (75 cm by 75 cm) that is now only a few centimeters deep. A wall interconnected to the west side of this ceremonial structure runs along the summit in a westerly direction for upwards of 10 m. The south edge of this random-work wall is flush with the surface, while its north side is elevated around 50 cm above the surface. The semi-subterranean aspect of this shrine complex seems to endow it with an archaic cultural identity. It may possibly have been used in the worship of chthonic deities.


[128] The pre-modern village of PulingSpu gling and its Communist period successor were founded on the same level stretch of ground. Each of the Communist period houses is erected inside its own compound.

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.