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

Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar
  • English equivalent: Ritual Dagger Red Walls
  • Site number: B-47
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4630 m
  • Administrative location (township): MentangMen thang
  • Administrative location (county): PelgönDpal mgon
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: November 2, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: One highly eroded manima ṇi plaque.
  • Maps: UTRS IX
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar is planted about 25 m above the lower Jakar TsangpoJa dkar gtsang po valley floor. The site faces east over an area of rich winter pasturage known as YangdéG.yang sde. The single all-stone edifice was constructed on a steep rocky slope and is aligned in the cardinal directions. It appears to have consisted of three tiers of small rooms (about one dozen in total). The strongly built structure was primarily constructed from red sandstone laid in random-work courses with a red mud mortar applied to the seams. Most of the lower walls of the edifice have been leveled precluding a detailed assessment of its ground plan. Walls are around 70 cm thick and contain variable sized stones (20 cm to 70 cm long). The single red sandstone plaque inscribed with the manima ṇi mantra found at Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar must have been transported here from a collection of such plaques in the valley bottom.

I have compared the architectural features of Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar to a description of an ancient shengshen residence found in a BönBon kabka’ text.134 Remarkably, BönBon literature preserves an accurate memory of Upper Tibetan dokhangrdo khang design features.

Oral tradition

According to local lore, a ngakpasngags pa named PurbuPhur bu inhabited Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar in ancient times. The site is considered potentially dangerous (ka nyenpobka’ gnyan po).

Site elements

Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar measures 8 m to 10.5 m (north-south, the lateral direction) by 9.5 m (east-west). Only the footings of the forward wall of the edifice are still intact. The forward or lower tier (around 3.9 m wide) of this dokhangrdo khang is set at two different elevations. The upper section (1.5 m wide) of the forward tier may have been part of an axial corridor. The middle tier of the edifice is 3.2 m wide and the third or upper tier is 2.4 m wide. A 5 m long wall segment (up to 1.8 m in height) separates the middle and upper tiers. The south room (2 m by 1.7 m) of the upper tier is largely intact, the only room in Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar to be so. The lintel (at least 1.1 m long) over the east-facing doorway of this room is still in place. Rubble filling the upper tier south room comes to within 1.2 m of the ceiling. The all-stone ceiling assembly forms a corbelled pseudoarch that projects 70 cm above the rest of the roof line. This is the only corbelled pseudoarch of its type surveyed to date in Upper Tibet. From the top of the side walls, this beehive-shaped arch (spanning an area of 1.4 m by 1.6 m) tapers inwards toward the apex of the roof until it is only about 30 cm wide. Stones cap the opening in the top of the arch. The stones making up the interior of the arch are covered in sediment and a black organic growth. A small north wall fragment in the upper tier is also extant (80 cm long, 90 cm high). In addition to red sandstone, there are a few conglomerate blocks in this north wall fragment. The remainder of the rear tier north room has collapsed as has most of the rest of the building. There is, however, a single in situ south wall fragment (2 m long, 50 cm high).

Directly below the Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar dokhangrdo khang at the foot of the slope, three sides of quadrate stone enclosure (4.8 m by 5.3 m) are in place. It was built with blue limestone, red sandstone and a conglomerate. The fragmentary walls of this superficial structure are around 60 cm thick. Its function is unknown. On the edge of a shelf, 28 m up slope of the dokhangrdo khang, there are the faint remains of a platform-like structure. At the same elevation 93 m to the south, is a much better preserved structure probably of the same type (2.1 m by 1.9 m by 60 cm). It is oriented to the angle of the slope rather than the compass points. This structure is probably an archaic shrine and is robustly constructed of red sandstone slabs (up to 1 m long) and large chunks of limestone. Presently, its forward wall is elevated 60 cm above the surface (its original height is not known), while its rear wall is flush with the slope. A similar but not as well-preserved structure (2 m by 2.1 m) is situated 50 m downhill. This more lightly-constructed structure (made from the same kinds of rocks) rises 50 cm above the lower slope and is flush with the uphill slope. Stones heaped upon it appear to be the remains of a superstructure. On the next slope, immediately south of a small gully, there are the faint remains of what might have been another vertically aligned row of shrines.

Affiliated sites

At the foot of the slope just south of Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar there are the remains of a small red sandstone house with two walled courtyards. It must have belonged to a well-to-do drokpa’brog pa of pre-modern times. It is built in the style commonly used by the region’s shepherds. In close proximity there is a stone wall with both old and new inscribed plaques. Several kilometers south of Purbu GyangmarPhur bu gyang dmar, just outside the township headquarters of MentangMen thang, is the locale of ButaSbu ta (sp.?). Two groups of ruins are located here: Zhima JangmaGzhis ma byang ma and Zhima LomaGzhis ma lho ma. These appear to have been elite residences of later historic times, but no lore regarding them was collected. The well-built stone structures of Zhima JangmaGzhis ma byang ma were established at the edge of the Jakar TsangpoJa dkar gtsang po valley on level ground. This complex contained a minimum of 20 rooms and was built with wooden roofs. A couple of the rooms have been rebuilt but are not currently in usage. Zhima LomaGzhis ma lho ma, which lies closer to the township headquarters, was not visited during the survey.


[134] Bellezza, Zhang Zhung, 294-299.

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.