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

DodrilbuDo dril bu

Basic site data

  • Site name: DodrilbuDo dril bu
  • English equivalent: Bell Island
  • Site number: B-130
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4570 m to 4620 m
  • Administrative location (township): LungkarLung dkar
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: TILE
  • Survey date: February 22, 2006.
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Minor inscriptions.
  • Maps: UTRS VII, HAS D2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

DodrilbuDo dril bu is the smaller island west of DotagaDo rta sga (B-128, B-129) in DaroktsoDa rog mtsho. It is so named because the high center point of the island resembles a bell. The 1 one-half km long DodrilbuDo dril bu is situated 3.5 km offshore. It hosts the same type of all-stone corbelled structures as DotagaDo rta sga, thus these two islands are closely related culturally and chronologically. While there is mention of Nangzher LöpoSnang bzher lod po’s stay at DotagaDo rta sga (Tsoling Gi DoMtsho gling gi do) in BönBon literature, DodrilbuDo dril bu appears to be completely neglected in Tibetan writings. The seven dokhangrdo khang of the island have an eastern aspect and are not well aligned in the cardinal directions. Two of them were erected near the shoreline, while the other five were built at various elevations along the rocky core of the island. The five dokhangrdo khang of the main settlement were spaced quite widely apart, ostensibly for privacy. The robustly built edifices may potentially have been occupied for centuries. The durability of the stonework was reinforced by setting the structures partly underground and by the use of prominent revetments. It appears that this community was founded with posterity in mind. The dokhangrdo khang are built of gray and reddish stones resembling quartzitic sandstone that may have undergone some metamorphosis. Variable length uncut stones (up to 75 cm long) were set in random-rubble courses. Both blocks and slabs were used, the former being more common, however. The seams were filled with a mud- or clay-based adhesive, virtually all of which has disappeared.

Unquestionably, nearly all essential provisions for the upkeep of this insular center had to come from the mainland. Only the smallest flock of goats and sheep could be kept here, and what grass there was may have been used as fodder for horses or put to other functions. The cream of archaic society is likely to have resided at DodrilbuDo dril bu, as it possesses all the architectural and geographic qualities of an exclusive settlement. I am inclined to believe that rather than just housing anchorites, such islands were home to the full demographic cross-section of ancient society.

Oral tradition

According to drokpa’brog pa of DaroktsoDa rog mtsho, DodrilbuDo dril bu was an ancient BönBon residential center.

Site elements

Residential Structure RS1

Residential structure RS1 (8.4 m by 5.6 m) is a very heavily degraded building that was erected near the shoreline (31° 11.00΄ / 84° 03.11΄ / 4570 m). The west/upslope wall is set a maximum of 1 m below ground level. The faint remains of a buttress, extending from the west wall, divide the structure into north and south rear rooms. The dissolving outer walls of this dokhangrdo khang have a maximum freestanding height of 80 cm.

Residential Structure RS2

Residential structure RS2 (7 m by 5 m) was also erected near the shoreline south of RS1 (10.95΄ / 03. 07΄). Only highly fragmentary walls have survived. There is not even sufficient structural evidence left to positively identify this structure as a dokhangrdo khang, but this is its most plausible identity given the architectural context of DodrilbuDo dril bu and other sites in the general area. RS2 was built against a slope and has walls reduced to 50 cm or less in height. Its location near the unstable shoreline may have hastened its disintegration.

Lower shrine

To the west of the lakeshore there is a wide bench that covers about one-third of DodrilbuDo dril bu. The vestiges of a square shrine (2.5 m by 2.7 m by 1.1 m) are found on this bench (10.90΄ / 02.92΄). Very little of the original design of this ceremonial structure is discernable. A walled enclosure (4 m by 4 m) sits on its south side. The perimeter walls (up to 30 cm high) of this enclosure are lightly built, but they appear to have been neatly erected and of double-course masonry. The lower shrine stands before the main DodrilbuDo dril bu settlement, which is located on the lower flanks of the bell-shaped heart of the island. There is also a small enclosure below the rim of the wide bench (10.39΄ / 02. 89΄ 4590 m). It was built into an outcrop and only paltry traces of the walls are extant.

Residential Structure RS3

Residential structure RS3, a particularly large dokhangrdo khang, measures 20.3 m (east-west) by 8 m (north-south) (10.31΄ / 02.88΄ / 4595 m). It was built at the foot of the island’s bell-shaped hill. RS3 has two courtyards: outer/east (8 m long) and inner/west (4.8 m long). The inner courtyard is elevated about 1.3 m above the outer courtyard. The inner courtyard is only 4.8 m wide, as the remainder of the breadth of the structure is occupied by a sheltered walkway. This passageway is walled on the forward/lakefront side. It accesses rooms in the west portion of the edifice. RS3 has two main wings (southeast and northwest).

The southeast wing entranceway is on the northeast side of RS3. The southeast wing (interior dimensions: 3.8 m by 2.2 m) is partly divided into two sections by a buttress projecting from the northeast wall adjacent to the entranceway. There is an in situ bridging stone (1.3 m long) that runs between the buttress and southwest wall. The floor-to-ceiling height of the southeast wing is around 1.5 m, 50 cm to 90 cm of which is underground on the west/upslope side of the structure. Below the stonework of the west wall there is an in situ boulder, underneath of which there is a recess (1.2 m wide and 1.2 m deep). There is a small niche in the northeast wall. Some mud plaster still sticks to the interior walls.

The northwest wing of RS3 still has corbelling and bridging stones attached to the top of its walls. Many other pieces of the roof assembly lie scattered on the floor. The larger forward/southeast room (2.5 m by 1.3 m) of the northwest wing has three alcoves in the rear/northwest wall. In the east alcove (50 cm by 60 cm) there is a stone shelf dividing it vertically into two parts. The central alcove measures 90 cm by 1.3 m by 1.3 m. The west alcove (1.5 m by 1.1 m by 1 m) is elevated 60 cm above the floor level. Naturally occurring boulders are integrated into the central and west alcoves. The three alcoves of RS3 are reminiscent of the three recesses in DotagaDo rta sga East (B-128) RS2, but they do not have the same subterranean aspect. The rear/northwest room of the northwest wing has a portion of its roof intact. Its rear/southwest wall is mostly underground. The maximum floor-to-ceiling height of this room is 1.8 m. There are boulders integrated into the wall that separates the two rooms of the northwest wing.

Residential Structure RS4

Residential structure RS4 was built into a steep slope and measures 13 m (north-south) by 9.6 m (east-west) (10.32΄ / 02.87΄/ 4600 m). The forward wall of RS4 has a maximum exterior height of 1.7 m on the north end of the edifice but is only 50 cm high on the south end. There is a courtyard 4.2 m long on the south side of the structure. The building itself has north and south wings.

The south wing of RS4 is 5.3 m long (interior dimensions: 4.3 m by 4.7 m) and probably contained five rooms. Around the rim of the walls, sheathing, corbels and bridging stones are still in situ. The center of the south wing is open to the sky and is where the entrances to the various rooms are situated. The interior of the south wing is only around 1.2 m in height but there has been substantial infilling of the structure. On the rear/uphill side, about half this height is below ground level and half is comprised of a freestanding parapet wall. The rooms themselves were built entirely underground. In the northwest room of the south wing, a stone and adobe platform was built against the rear wall. On the south side of this platform there is a stone-lined cavity (30 cm by 25 cm by 40 cm). In the central room of the south wing there are two niches set one on top of the other in a wall. Along the east wall of the central room there is a platform constructed of clay and stone slabs. There is also a niche in the west wall and south wall of the central room. On the exterior west side of the edifice, adjacent to the northwest room, there is a cavity in the wall (50 cm wide and 1 m deep). Its purpose is unknown.

The north wing of RS4 (interior dimensions: 6.4 m by 3.2 m) contained five to seven rooms. Much of the north wing has been razed, thus its floor plan is no longer evident. Bits of the roof assembly have survived on the south end of the structure. Many components of the roof lie on the floor. The longest piece of sheathing detected measures 1 m by 70 cm by 5 cm (thick).

Residential Structure RS5

Residential structure RS5 was also built into a steep slope (10.34΄ / 02.87΄ / 4595 m). It measures 10 m (north-south) by 6 m (east-west). There is a courtyard (interior dimensions: 3.5 m by 4 m) on the south side of the structure. The southwest/uphill side of the courtyard was built 90 cm into the slope. An east-facing wall segment of the courtyard wall has an exterior height of 1.2 m and an interior height of 80 cm, illustrating the steep slope gradient. The south end of the forward/east wall of RS5 has an exterior height of 1.5 m and an interior height of 90 cm. On the north end of the structure, the forward wall is 80 cm high inside and 3.1 m high outside, the difference being accounted for by a 1.4 m high revetment and slope gradient. This revetment extends laterally 1.1 m from the forward wall. This expanded revetment insured the basic integrity of RS5 despite its placement on a steep slope. There are also two wings of rooms in RS5: south and north.

The south wing of RS5 has two main rooms (east and west) separated from one another by an axial corridor (1.2 m long, 80 cm wide). Additionally, there may have been a small anteroom on the south side of the east room. The west room (1.8 m by 1.9 m) of the south wing has a large niche in the west wall. This room has a height of 1.3 m and is accessed directly from the corridor. The east room entrance is on the south side of RS5 and access was probably through an anteroom.

The entranceway to the north wing of RS5 (interior dimensions: 2.4 m by 1.7 m) is found at the north end of the axial corridor. A buttress 1.3 m long, an extension of the east wall of the axial corridor, divides the north wing into two spaces (east and west). Roof appurtenances are in situ in the west portion. The west/upper slope wall of the north wing is 1.2 m high, all of which is below the ground. There is a ground level niche in the west wall and a stone shelf in the northwest corner.

Residential Structure RS6

Residential structure RS6 is situated between RS3 and RS5 at about 5 m lower elevation (10.94΄ / 02.88΄ / 4590 m). This small structure (3.7 m by 2.2 m) was built into a steep east-facing slope. The maximum height of the east/forward wall is 1.3 m. The west/rear wall is set 1.1 m below the slope, giving this unusually tiny dokhangrdo khang a semi-subterranean aspect. This structure houses just one room (1.7 m by 1.5 m). A few pieces of the roof assembly are still poised on the west and south walls. On the east side of the building there is a revetment 80 cm in height that helped stabilize the structure.

Upper shrine

Higher up the hill there is rectangular shrine composed of two interlocking units (10.34΄ / 02.84΄ / 4610 m). This random-rubble structure (3.1 m by 1.5 m by 1.6 m maximum) was constructed using both blocks and slabs. There is a small opening in the south wall of the south unit that accesses a large cavity in the top of the structure (extending to the outer walls in all directions). A portion of the clay plaster, containing a gravel matrix, still adheres to the north wall. The north unit is much more degraded than its southern counterpart. The north unit was built on top of a naturally occurring boulder. One meter from the south side of the shrine there is a retaining wall (7 m long, around 40 cm high), which helped to create the flat in which the ceremonial structure stands.

Residential Structure RS7

Residential structure RS7 (6.8 m by 6 m) is the highest residential structure at DodrilbuDo dril bu (10.91΄ / 02. 84΄ / 4620 m). Below the north side of RS7 there is a walled enclosure (4.9 m by 4 m), which substitutes for the appended courtyards found at other dokhangrdo khang of the site. A rock outcrop forms part of the perimeter of this enclosure. The forward wall of the enclosure stands 1.3 m above the slope, while the rear wall was set 1.2 m below the slope. In the rear wall of the enclosure there is a deep recess (70 cm by 50 cm by 90 cm) with an intact lintel. The maximum height of the east/forward wall of the building itself is 2.7 m on the exterior and 1.4 m on the interior, the difference being made up by a prominent revetment. The central portion of this revetment and much of the forward wall of RS7 has been destroyed. RS7 contains both forward/east and rear/west tiers of rooms.

The forward tier of RS7 has four rooms: northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest. The northeast room has been nearly obliterated. The roof of the northwest room is partly intact. The southeast room (1.9 by 1.5 m, floor-to-ceiling height: 1.4 m) is also partly integral. There is a niche in the south wall of this room at floor level. Although largely destroyed, the southwest room has a little of its roof intact.

The rear tier of RS7 consists of two rooms: north and south. The forward/east wall of the rear tier is 2 m to 2.4 m high, plus a parapet wall that adds another 30 cm to its overall height. The rear/west wall is flush with the slope on its south end and raised 50 cm above the slope on the north end. Each room has its own east-facing entrance. The roof of the south room (1.5 m by 1.7 m, floor-to-ceiling height: 2 m) is almost completely intact. The entrance to this room measures 90 cm by 60 cm. The roof of the north room (2.4 m by 1.7 m, floor-to-ceiling height: 2 m) is not in as good condition as its counterpart. Above the entranceway (1.1 m by 60 cm) of the north room there is a small window opening. Inside the north room there are two adobe and stone platforms. The south platform spans an entire wall and has a large cavity underneath half of it. The north platform is smaller and may possibly be the remains of a hearth (although no fire pit is discernable). There is a small niche in the east wall of the north room, just south of the entrance. A white pigment was used to scrawl Buddhist inscriptions on the south wall. From east to west they read: mama, syamsyam, khamkham, and Aa’ (three examples). On the south wall there are also dots and linear designs. The incomplete mantra om manioṃ ma ṇi is found written on the west wall.

An enclosure (5.1 m by 3.2 m) is found 12 m east of RS7 at slightly lower elevation. Its forward wall is 1.2 m high on the exterior side and 60 cm high on the interior. The rear wall of the enclosure is set 80 cm below the slope. Part of the perimeter wall is made up of rock outcrops. Such a structure could have had a variety of utilitarian or ritual functions.


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.