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

Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar
  • English equivalent: Glistening Meadow White Fortress
  • Site number: B-121
  • Site typology: I.2c
  • Elevation: 4360 m to 4450 m
  • Administrative location (township): KhyunglungKhyung lung
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda’
  • Survey expedition: TUE
  • Survey date: September 9, 2005
  • Contemporary usage: Certain caves are used as pastoral shelters.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Near the north end of the site there are old inscribed brown sandstone plaques and more recent ones of limestone. On the esplanade below the cave complex there are two extremely eroded Buddhist shrines, one of which contains clay figurines (Tsatsatshwa tshwa). In close proximity there is the ruined base of what might have been a chötenmchod rten. It is reported that there is a cave with Buddhist frescos at the site.
  • Maps: UTRS V, UTRS X, HAS C3
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar, located on the east side of an eponymous valley, overlooks the confluence of the two rivers that flow through this location. Around 210 caves (mostly consisting of single chambers) of the type common throughout GugéGu ge were cut into an earthen and gravel escarpment. These caves appear to be the original nucleus of settlement in the PangtraSpang bkra valley. The caves are found from the base of the escarpment to within at least 60 m of its highly dissected flat summit. The lowest line of caves is suspended 80 m to 140 m above the PangtraSpang bkra valley floor. Downstream of the cave complex, the valley closes in around a gorge. In addition to the two rivers there is a small spring at the foot of the formation.

The Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar cave complex occupies a central position overlooking extensive agricultural lands. These farmlands are located on a large flat between the two rivers of PangtraSpang bkra. Only a small portion of this land is being tilled at present. A smaller agricultural pocket was located above the west side of the west branch of the Pangtra ChuSpang bkra chu. The ample fertile land and plentiful water of the locale, uncommon natural endowments in contemporary GugéGu ge, are likely to have been exploited for a very long period of time. Given its excellent natural resource base, Buddhist occupation of Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar (as reflected in the monumental record) appears to have been very minimal (the caves here probably functioned as a Buddhist retreat center). This seems to suggest that the period of highest site development came earlier.

Oral tradition

Local residents say that Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar was once a Buddhist center.

Site elements

The cave fronts are highly eroded thus very few façades or entranceways have survived. As in other caves of GugéGu ge, these often have domed recesses in the rear walls flanked by oblong niches. One cave inspected still has a groove in the ceiling, which functioned to allow smoke to escape. The largest cave that could be accessed is situated near the north side of Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar. It is 9 m deep and 9 m wide at the mouth. Towards the middle portion of the bottom end of the site there is a double-chambered cave with a masonry façade. This masonry structure is covered in mud plaster that was painted white with lime. In the south portion of Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar as many as five caves are arrayed vertically. Two caves among them have red ochre tinted walls and another one has the remains of a masonry façade. Many of the upper caves of the Pangtra Dzong KarSpang bkra rdzong dkar escarpment must have been accessed with wooden ladders and suspended walkways.


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.