Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
by John Vincent Bellezza
Edited by Geoffrey Barstow, Mickey Stockwell and Michael White
Tibetan & Himalayan Library
Published under the THL Digital Text License.

II.1. Stelae and accompanying structures: Funerary and non-funerary structures

Zangdong MöndoZangs gdong mon rdo

Basic site data

  • Site name: Zangdong MöndoZangs gdong mon rdo
  • English equivalent: Copper Face MönMon Stones
  • Site number: C-170
  • Site typology: II.1a, II.2a
  • Elevation: 4600 m to 4620 m
  • Administrative location (township): HorpaHor pa
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: TILE
  • Survey date: March 5, 2006
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS XI, HAS C5
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Zangdong MöndoZangs gdong mon rdo is located just west of a red escarpment known as ZangdongZangs gdong. To the east, a vast plain stretches to the horizon. In the south, this plain is bounded by the Great Central Himalaya range and in the north, by the Transhimalaya range. Zangdong MöndoZangs gdong mon rdo consists of groups of pillars erected on a sandy slope at the foot of the red escarpment, as well as funerary enclosures established on the sandy and gravelly edge of the plain. The pillars and enclosures are primarily built of a bluish metamorphic (?) stone. These two types of structures occupying adjoining but different types of terrain appear to belong to the same integrated necropolitan complex. Pillar group 1 was possibly erected inside a quadrate enclosure, but this could not be determined with any surety.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, Zangdong MöndoZangs gdong mon rdo is associated with the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Pillar group 1

Pillar group 1 consists of a north-south oriented line of pillars 4.3 m in length. The slope upon which they were erected is quite steep and very sandy. It appears to have undergone significant geomorphologic changes over time. The uneven row of mostly smaller pillars is aligned perpendicular to the angle of the slope. Many of the bluish pillars are broken, and gaps in the row suggest that some of them are missing altogether. The north end of the row may have had upwards of 10 diminutive pillars. The 1.7 m long south end of the row contains five larger standing stones. From south to north, they have the following dimensions: 40 cm (height) by 95 cm (basal girth), 50 cm by 75 cm, 70 cm by 85 cm, 1.3 m by 1.2 m, and 80 cm by 95 cm. The tallest specimen is quite tabular in form and its two broad sides are oriented north and south. There appears to have been walls around this line of pillars, which were aligned in the cardinal directions. This prospective enclosure approximately measures 5 m (east-west) by 7.2 m (north-south). Virtually nothing but a faint outline remains of the possible enclosure. Its highly nebulous form and the sharply sloping terrain make positive identification of this structure difficult.

Other pillars

A non-uniform tabular pillar (1.1 m by 1.9 m) is situated 16.5 m uphill/west of pillar group 1. This standing stone is made of the same bluish rock and its broad sides face north and south. There are two smaller pillars (30 cm and 50 cm high) situated 37 m north of pillar group 1. The vestiges of other small pillars and walls seem to be distributed over nearby sandy slopes. Due to stringent time limitations, these more superficial dispersions could not be surveyed.193

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (9.6 m by 9.6 m) is a square enclosure aligned in the cardinal directions (05.44΄ / 10.44΄ / 4600 m). FS1 occupies an isolated position on the edge of the plain. This enclosure appears to primarily have single-course perimeter walls, but there are also a couple sections along the perimeter that may be of double-course construction. The upright variable-length unshaped stones (20 cm to 70 cm long) of the walls project 10 cm to 40 cm above the ground surface. The interior is free of structural elements.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 is a single-course rectangular enclosure aligned in the compass points (05.60΄ / 10.47΄). It measures 5 m (east-west) by 2.8 m (north-south). The south and east walls of this enclosure have been largely destroyed. The walls contain variable-length rocks (up to 70 cm long) that were laid edgewise in the ground. These unshaped stones project as much as 30 cm from the ground surface. The interior is free of structural elements.

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 (3.9 m by 3.9 m) is situated 13 m north of FS2. This single-course enclosure has an open interior. Its perimeter walls are single-course and are composed of unshaped upright stones 20 cm to 70 cm in length, which project 5 cm to 40 cm above ground level.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 is situated 4 m north of FS3. This unusually designed funerary structure is comprised of 12 interconnected square cells. FS4 is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 29.4 m (north-south) by 2 m (east-west). This structure has single-course perimeter walls, which contain upright stones up to 70 cm in length, which project as much as 35 cm from the ground surface. The 12 cells (2 m by 2 m) form a single line of structures, and are separated from one another by a distance of 40 cm to 90 cm. These cells appear to have open interiors despite the presence of many small stones strewn all over FS4.


[193] In this particular case, the pared down survey team was on horseback and had to cross back to our camps on the north side of the frozen Yarlung TsangpoYar lung gtsang po before nightfall.

Note Citation for Page

John Vincent Bellezza, (Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010), .

Bibliographic Citation

John Vincent Bellezza. . Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010.