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

MönbuMon bu

Basic site data

  • Site name: MönbuMon bu
  • English equivalent: Son of the Mön (?)
  • Site number: B-125
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4870 m to 4880 m
  • Administrative location (township): ShangtséShang rtse
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 11, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: A manima ṇi wall and a prayer flag mast (darchokdar lcog).
  • Maps: UTRS V, HAS C2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

MönbuMon bu is built at the foot of a mountain of the same name, the yüllhayul lha of DungkarDung dkar village.133 The site occupies a narrow hanging valley called MendharaSman dha ra (sp.?) situated at the eastern foot of the sacred mountain. It is comprised of five all-stone corbelled edifices built entirely above the ground. These structures are in close proximity to Mönbu DoringMon bu rdo ring (C-169), a cult site for the worship of the yüllhayul lha. Due to the usage of relatively thin roof slabs, smaller and more delicate corbelling was installed as compared to many other dokhangrdo khang sites. Entranceways tend to be relatively large, but there is no evidence for their having been windows in any of the structures. All structures are constructed of blue-gray metamorphic slabs (10 cm to 80 cm in length) configured in heavily mud-mortared random-work courses. Walls average only 40 cm in thickness. Some walls are finely constructed of small slabs (10 cm to 25 cm long). None of the edifices are aligned in the cardinal directions, nor is there structural evidence for hearths. As in other dokhangrdo khang, ground plans consist of a multiple of small rooms without an obvious centralized space.

Certain morphological features of the MönbuMon bu structures (above-ground aspect, larger and more intricately designed entryways, the light construction of the buildings, and the relatively large size of one specimen) suggest that this site was founded at a later date (early historic period?) than some of Upper Tibet’s other all-stone installations. Further archaeological research is needed, however, to confirm this hypothesis. Given the remote and lofty location of the site at the foot of an important regional sacred mountain, the MönbuMon bu facility may have had a religious function.

Oral tradition

According to inhabitants of DungkarDung dkar, MönbuMon bu was an ancient residential center.

Site elements

Residential Structure RS1

Residential structure RS1 is situated 7.5 m north of Mönbu DoringMon bu rdo ring. This large structure is 22 m long, 3.7 m wide on its southwest side and 7 m wide on its northeast side. There are significant wall elevations (up to 1.8 m) all throughout the structure save for its northeast end. The southwest end of RS1 is only one room wide (rooms 1 to 3). Room 1 has its own independent entrance. Rooms 2 and 3 are internally connected through an entranceway (1.3 m by 1 m) with an intact lintel. The slightly rounded corners of the wall plates in rooms 1 to 3 are a telltale sign that they were capped by an all-stone roof. To the northeast of room 3 the structure widens to two rooms abreast. There appear to have been three such pairs of rooms but the northeast extremity of the building is almost leveled.

A manima ṇi wall with old inscribed plaques is situated 2.5 m southeast of RS1. Eighteen meters southeast of RS1 there are the remains of a rectangular masonry structure (5.6 m by 1.5 m by 1.5 m). It is hollow inside and built in a similar manner to the dokhangrdo khang. It may represent an archaic shrine of some kind.

Residential Structure RS2

Residential structure RS2 (4.9 m by 7.4 m) is situated 58 m northeast or up valley from RS1. It supported six rooms. Standing walls reach 1.4 m in height. An entranceway (1 m by 60 cm) between a northeast suite and a southeast suite of rooms is intact. A stone slab (1.2 m by 50 cm) lying inside the structure was probably used in the construction of the roof.

Residential Structure RS3

Residential structure RS3 (12.7 m by 7 m) is situated 5.5 m northeast or upslope of RS2. Its walls attain a maximum height of 1.6 m. A row of four rooms on the southwest end of the structure may have constituted a separate wing. It could not be determined whether there was a gap of 2 m or interconnecting walls between these four rooms and the rest of the structure. In the southwest group of rooms there is one intact entranceway (1.3 m by 90 cm). The main part of the edifice had no less than ten rooms. The southeast half of the main part of RS3 is in poor condition and its ground plan is no longer apparent. The northeast half of the main portion of RS3, however, is in much better shape. Small bits of the roofing still cling to the corners of its rooms. In the northeast part of the structure, five entranceways with their lintels (up to 1.5 m in length) intact are still in place. Two of these are external entrances on the upslope side of the edifice. All the entranceways of RS3 are 1.2 m to 1.3 m in height and 80 cm to 90 cm in width. In one of walls of a central room there is a small rectangular niche. On the west or upslope side of the main edifice what may have been an apron wall (4.7 m by 1.1 m by 1 m) creates a platform that extends into one of the rooms.

Residential Structure RS4

Residential structure RS4 (5.5 m by 4.9 m) is located 65 m west of RS3 on a small shelf above the valley floor. It consists of four rooms but only the northeast room (1.9 m by 1.5 m) is in a fairly good state of preservation. The walls of this room reach 1.5 m in height and its integral entranceway is 60 cm wide (opens internally to another room). A few small corbels and roof sheathing (up to 1.4 m in length) remain attached to the north wall of the northeast room. They cover about ¼ the total area of the room. Against two walls of the northeast room there are small tables consisting of just three stone each.

Residential Structure RS5

Residential structure RS5 (6 m by 7 m) is situated 6.8 m west of RS4 on the same shelf. This east-facing structure has two tiers of rooms. The west/rear tier probably had three rooms originally. On a crest 45 m southwest of RS5 there is a prayer flag mast on the right edge of the MendharaSman dha ra valley. This mast was built upon an elaborate masonry base. This base has recesses in it used to enshrine butter lamps and other religious paraphernalia. This masonry mass may be the remains of another ancient structure, which was modified at some point in time to its current form.

Affiliated structures

Below the MönbuMon bu site there is what appears to be a long disused pastoral camp with a variety of nang ra (tent enclosures) (31° 42.1΄ N. lat. / 79° 55.1΄ E. long. / 4750 m). Further down valley there is a roundish enclosure measuring 8 m across (42.1΄ / 55.0΄ / 4740 m). The stones host orange climax lichen and dramagra ma brush grows inside, indicating that it has not been disturbed in a long time. This enclosure may be a funerary superstructure. At still lower elevation is an old pastoral camp with well-preserved intricately constructed tent foundation (nangranang ra) (42.1΄ / 54.8΄ / 4700 m). This site is situated above where the streams coming from the west and east sides of Mount MönbuMon bu converge. At this camp there are three quadrate structures composed of slabs called nyelsanyal sa. It is reported that these unusual structures are sleeping enclosures used by those watching over the herds at night.


[133] This mountain, an outlier of the Ayi LaA yi la Transhimalaya range, is distinguished from other peaks in the vicinity by a rock knob on its summit. MönbuMon bu is referred to as “son of the MönMon” on account of its ancestral function for the villagers of DungkarDung dkar, situated some 30 kms away. It name clearly suggests an association with the mon, that elusive tribe thought to have peopled much of Upper Tibet in ancient times.

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.