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

Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong
  • English equivalent: Fortress of the Srin po
  • Site number: B-43
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4400 m and 4450 m
  • Administrative location (township): RecoRe co
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 3, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: Minimal hay storage.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Ruined chötenmchod rten.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The cliff dwellings of Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong overlook the 20 km long Bangkhur TsoBang khur mtsho and the snowy peaks of the LadakLa dwags Transhimalaya range. This site has a western aspect (much less common than an eastern or southern aspect). It appears to have been the original kernel of settlement in the Bangkhur TsoBang khur mtsho basin, a rich pastoral natural resource. Extensive springs are located in the vicinity of Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong. In the basin below the cliffs there is the seasonal pastoral settlement of Raru TsukRa ru gtsug (sp.?), a large collection of corrals. There is an upper complex and lower complex of structures at Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong. They consist of small slab wall buildings nestled in the cliffs that almost certainly had all-stone roofs. The random-work walls are almost entirely of the dry-stone variety. These heavily built shelters have walls around 70 cm thick that contain stone slabs (some blocks as well) up to 1.5 m in length. These buildings were clearly constructed to endure for a long time. The ruins now, however, are in a poor state of preservation.

Oral tradition

According to residents of RecoRe co, in ancient times, Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong was the haunt of man-eating spirits called sinposrin po.

Site elements

Lower complex

The lower complex of Sinpo DzongSrin po’i rdzong was built on ledges suspended above a rocky bench, which is elevated about 15 m above the valley floor. This bench runs for some 75 m along the base of an escarpment and is around 12 m wide. The ruins of the lower complex are found 3 m to 4 m above it.

Residential Structure RS1

On the northern edge of a 75 m long bench forming the base of the lower complex there are the remains of a quadrate masonry structure (1.8 m by 1.8 m by less than 1 m), which was probably a shrine of some kind. On a small ledge 24 m south of this structure is residential structure RS1, which consists of the scant remnants of a wall that was probably part of a little domicile. On the bench between RS1 and RS2 there are fragmentary footings and these continue south all the way to the terminus of the site. Their function is not evident. They may have supported enclosures used as summer camps, for storage or for other types of economic activities.

Residential Structure RS2

Residential structure RS2 is located on a series of ledges 17 m south of RS1. The RS2 dispersion measures 9.1 m by 16.4 m. Part of the forward wall of the edifice is still intact. Its exterior wall is up to 2.7 m in height, 70 cm of which is freestanding. The bulk of the exterior wall is made up of a substantial revetment. The south end of RS2 is set on a ledge about 5 m wide and has been leveled. Above this ledge there is a fragmentary mud-mortared wall that encloses a small cleft in the cliff face. It is unclear whether this feature was used for storage purposes or for religious functions. Below RS2, a retaining wall (up to 1.5 m in height) was built at the edge of a terrace. The roots of another wall below RS2 divide the main bench into east and west sections.

Residential Structure RS3

Residential structure RS3, located 9 m south of RS2, covers an area of 16 m by 8.8 m. It was constructed along a rock ledge. Although revetment fragments reach 1.7 m in height, these were much less developed than the revetments of RS2. In one upper wall segment there is a small hollow that may be the remains of a niche. Against the cliff a storage area for grass was built in recent times. Below the ruins of RS3 there is a wall fragment (2 m long, 1.5 m high) upon which a good deal of rock fall has accumulated. This wall is another vestige of the original settlement. Below it there is a wall remnant on the main bench that seems to have acted as the gateway to RS3. This robustly constructed wall fragment is up to 1 m in height and between 80 cm and 1.4 m in thickness.

ChötenMchod rten of the sinposrin po

At the foot of the cliff dwellings of the lower complex there is the base of a ruined chötenmchod rten (3.4 m by 2.2 m), which is said to have contained the bones of a man-eating sinposrin po, who is supposed to have lived at the site in ancient times. Reportedly, this chötenmchod rten was destroyed in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Local sources say that this chötenmchod rten helped prevent the sinposrin po from reappearing and causing harm. Next to the chötenmchod rten of the sinposrin po are the scant remains of what appears to have been another chötenmchod rten.

Upper complex

The upper complex is situated slightly to the south of the lower complex about 50 m higher up in the cliffs. It enjoys an almost impregnable position. The main portion of the upper complex occupies a ledge with a substantial revetment wall built around it, indicating that important structures once stood here. Access from below is difficult and is impossible from above (without technical climbing gear). The revetment hemming in this entire ledge (24.5 m long, up to 5 m wide) is up to 1.5 m in height, posing a formidable obstacle to intruders. On the south side of this ledge there are the traces of a small rock shelter (3.4 m by 2.2 m). Its forward wall is set a maximum of 70 cm below the rim of the ledge. On the north end of the ledge there is also the foundation of a small building (3.3 m by 3.5 m). Standing wall segments to 40 cm in height have survived. Some of the middle portion of the ledge along with its structures appears to have fallen away. Roughly 20 m below this ledge are several small wall fragments. It is not clear whether they were part of a buttressed trail, fortifications or residences.


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.