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

Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang

Basic site data

  • Site name: Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang
  • English Equivalent: Hardened Leather Cuirass Meditation House
  • Site number: B-17
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4730 m
  • Administrative location (township): BaryangBar yangs
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: April 14, 15, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Prayer flags.
  • Maps: UTRS XI, HAS C5
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang is named after the well-known Nyingmarnying ma protective deity (sungmasrung ma). The all-stone residential structure of Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang has been reduced to crumbling walls. It sits on a broad sandy slope above Tara GönpaRta ra dgon pa, a small Nyingmarnying ma monastery. The well-drained site faces east and overlooks a large marshy basin formed by various branches of the TsachuTshwa chu river. This area constitutes an important pastoral resource in the BaryangBar yangs region. The exact plan of Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang is no longer evident. The approximate maximum dimensions of the edifice are 14.5 m by 8 m. Wall fragments up to 2 m in height have endured. There appears to have been at least eight small rooms in this dry-stone (?), random-rubble structure. Fortunately, one of these rooms has survived with its corbelled stone roof largely intact (3 m by 1 m by 1.5 m).

Oral tradition

According to the residents of nearby TaraRta ra monastery, Nyingmaparnying ma pa meditators used Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang for many centuries. It is said that six meditation cells in the edifice were intact until the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Much of the structure was then dismantled to construct livestock pens on the site. These corrals have fallen out of use and many of the stones have been carried off.

Site elements

Outlying structures

There are reported to have been many ancient walls in the vicinity of Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang and Tara GönpaRta ra dgon pa. Since the late 1980s, however, the rebuilding of manima ṇi walls and the wholesale removal of stones by truck has eradicated many of these structures. West of Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang on a small sandy plateau there is a poorly preserved foundation (7 m by 11 m) (31º 10.3΄ N. lat. / 83º 36.3΄ E. long. / 4750 m). There are at least eight other crumbling superficial structures 45 m to the northwest of this foundation, which extend over a 100 m transection. These dissolving walls resemble the superstructures of tombs. Stones up to 1 m in length were used in their construction. One hundred meters to the northeast of these wall footings there is a remnant of a slab wall. There are just a few upright slabs in situ, the largest of which is 60 cm in length (it protrudes 15 cm above ground level). Continuing in a northeast direction for another 28 m there is a double-course slab wall segment (6 m long). The two lines of slabs are spaced about 70 cm apart. The largest stone in this slab wall is 80 cm in length and sticks as much as 35 cm out of the ground. Just south of Tara GönpaRta ra dgon pa there are the remains of what appears to have been another slab grave. The largest in situ slab in this structure is 70 cm in length and it projects 50 cm above the surface.

Tara GönpaRta ra dgon pa

According to the late head of Tara GönpaRta ra dgon pa (Horse Corral Monastery), Minyak Pema Wanggyel RinpochéMi nyag pad ma dbang rgyal rin po che (died in his eighties in 2002), it was named after a large horse corral that the epic hero Ling GesarGling ge sar built at the site. GesarGe sar is said to have come to the region to battle his adversary Takzig Norgi GyelpoStag gzig nor gyi rgyal po. GesarGe sar is also supposed to have founded the monastery around 900 years ago and to have resided here for sometime. To support his assertion, Minyak Pema WanggyelMi nyag pad ma dbang rgyal cites Düjom RinpochéBdud 'joms rin po che’s (Jikdrel Yeshé Dorjé’Jigs bral ye shes rdo rje) SungbumGsung bum, where it states that GesarGe sar was active during the second rapjungrab byung (1087-1147 CE).111 Later, the great architect Tangtong GyelpoThang stong rgyal po (15th century CE) is thought to have founded an assembly hall (dükhang’du khang) of 12 pillars on the site. This structure stood until circa 1943 when it was destroyed by a marauding band of Kazaks. Unfortunately, a registry (karchakdkar chag) containing valuable information about the monastery was destroyed in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. After the Kazak attack a lama called Shang RinpochéShangs rin po che built a smaller temple at the site, which survived until the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In 1989, after returning from exile in DolpoDol po, Minyak Pema WanggyelMi nyag pad ma dbang rgyal rebuilt the current monastery on the same site as the old assembly hall. The presence of what appear to be slab graves as well as the archaic architectural style of Setrap TsamkhangBse khrab mtshams khang illustrate that the highly desirable TaraRta ra site has been occupied since ancient times. The localized GesarGe sar epic tale preserves this fact in a distorted or allegorical fashion.

Affiliated sites

Kyangbum DzongRkyang bum rdzong

South of the Yarlung TsangpoYar lung gtsang po river in HorpaHor pa township there is a later historic era fortress known as Kyangbum DzongRkyang bum rdzong (30° 04. 44΄ N. lat. / 83° 01. 48΄ E. long.). According to some local sources, this fortress is so named because its protective deities appeared as 100,000 stampeding onagers to defeat the Gorkha enemy of the late 18th century CE. It is also reported that Kyangbum DzongRkyang bum rdzong was associated with the SingpaSing pa of the cis-Himalaya. This rammed-earth facility was established on the top of a pyramidal hill rising 40 m above the broad Yarlung TsangpoYar lung gtsang po valley. The site has three main complexes: north (11 m by 8 m) central (7 m by 12 m) and east (11 m by 21 m). There are also ruined chötenmchod rten and inscribed plaques at Kyangbum DzongRkyang bum rdzong. Significant amounts of timber fragments litter the site.


[111] jik drel yé shé do jé‘jigs bral ye shes rdo rje, dü jom jik drel yé shé do jé sung bum dam chö rin chen nor bü bang dzöBdud 'joms 'jigs bral ye shes rdo rje'i gsung 'bum dam chos rin chen nor bu'i bang mdzod (Kalimpong: dupajung(?) amḌupjung ḷama. 1979-1985), vol. ka, no. 824

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.