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.2. Superficial structures: Primarily funerary superstructure

Ser RiriSer ris ris

Basic site data

  • Site name: Ser RiriSer ris ris
  • English equivalent: Yellow Markings (?)
  • Site number: D-65
  • Site typology: II.2c
  • Elevation: 4310 m and 4340 m
  • Administrative location (township): Trashi GangBkra shis sgang
  • Administrative location (county): GarSgar
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 19, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Ser RiriSer ris ris is located above the confluence of the Senggé TsangpoSeng ge gtsang po and MiktrinMig sprin valleys. The site enjoys a commanding location above the two river valleys and would have been a prominent geographic feature of ancient settlement at Trashi GangBkra shis sgang. The terrain is sandy and rock-strewn. The site consists of five clusters of heaped-stone wall ovoid enclosures and one isolated specimen situated at two different locations. Each enclosure or cell measures 1.8 m to 5.5 m across. Variable-length (30 cm to 80 cm long) stones are piled up to a maximum height of 50 cm to 1 m. These heaped-stone walls originally may have been somewhat higher. It is possible that each cluster of ovoid cells was surrounded by an outer perimeter wall, but there is insufficient in situ structural evidence from which to make a positive determination. Some of the funerary superstructures at Ser RiriSer ris ris were modified to create shepherd shelters or other types of structures. Some enclosures contain concavities up to 1 m deep. These appear to be signs of excavations carried out well in the past. Due to these disturbances, the clusters of cells at Ser RiriSer ris ris are not very well preserved.

Oral tradition

According to inhabitants of Trashi GangBkra shis sgang village, the structures of Ser RiriSer ris ris are the tombs of the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Lower site

The lower site is situated on a shelf that forms below the ridgeback. It is comprised of three clusters of enclosures or cells and one isolated cell in close proximity to one another:

  1. The south cluster (15.5 m by 5 m) appears to consist of four interconnected cells.
  2. Cluster 2 (21.5 m by 16 m) is situated 8 m north of the south cluster. It appears to consist of at least one dozen cells, including a number of small specimens measuring less than 2.5 m across.
  3. Cluster 3 (9 m by 8 m) is situated 4.5 m north of cluster 2. It appears to consist of three contiguous cells. The north cell (8 m by 5 m) is situated 11 m north of cluster 3. It appears to have consisted of just a single cell with a large depression in the center. Among its walls there is an east-west oriented line of seven large stones (50 cm to 80 cm long) embedded in the ground.
Upper site

The upper site is situated 110 m west of the lower site in a fairly level fold of the ridge (29.88΄ / 40.217΄ / 4340 m). The upper site is comprised of two clusters of cells:

  1. The east cluster (21 m by 16 m) consists of several cells, each measuring around 5 m across. Its south side is raised about 1 m above the surrounding terrain. In one of the cells there is a 1 m deep depression.
  2. The west cluster (12 m by 17 m) is situated 24 m west of the east cluster. It consists of a large central cell flanked by two smaller cells around 3 m across. At one time the central cell was excavated. One of the smaller cells is fairly intact while the other one is not.

Affiliated sites

Ganden Tsewang KharDga’ ldan tshe dbang mkhar

Directly above the settlement of Trashi GangBkra shis sgang there is a hill called WutséDbu rtse with a prayer flag mast on its summit (32° 30.173΄ N. lat. / 79° 39.913΄ E. long. / 4380 m).200 This is the location of Ganden Tsewang KharDga’ ldan tshe dbang mkhar, a ruined multi-roomed residential complex (26 m by 7 m) and a couple of small outlying buildings. All structures have been reduced to their foundations or low-lying wall fragments. The 50 cm thick walls of this installation, which are not buttressed, could only have supported timber roofs.

In all likelihood, the so-called Ganden Tsewang KharDga’ ldan tshe dbang mkhar is an archaic cultural facility. Nevertheless, some residents of Trashi GangBkra shis sgang hold that Ganden Tsewang KharDga’ ldan tshe dbang mkhar was built by the famous general Ganden TsewangDga’ ldan tshe dbang in his campaign against the LadakLa dwags army (he ousted the LadakpaLa dwags pa from Ngari KorsumMnga’ ris skor gsum in 1680 CE). This oral tradition, however, appears to be apocryphal. As Ganden TsewangDga’ ldan tshe dbang took control of the Trashi GangBkra shis sgang and TsarangRtsa rang citadels in 1680 CE,201 there does not seem to be any strategic reason why he would build a much smaller garrison on the ridgeback above the Trashi GangBkra shis sgang citadel. The construction of such an installation would not have been militarily feasible while the LadakLa dwags army was still in control of the Trashi GangBkra shis sgang citadel and environs, and it would have been redundant after their conquest. The hidden ridge-top location of the site, the highly deteriorated condition of the ruins and their general morphological traits are more in keeping with the archaic cultural strongholds that dot the Gar TsangpoSgar gtsang po and Senggé TsangpoSeng ge gtsang po valleys (see A-22, A-23, A-41, A-42, A-43, A-44, A-66, A-67, A-124, A-125, A-126). The ancient settlement pattern exhibited in this region is marked by the construction of a stronghold perched above each major agricultural enclave. Trashi GangBkra shis sgang, one of these agrarian pockets, is likely to have experienced the same type of cultural occupation.

Trashi GangBkra shis sgang

Trashi GangBkra shis sgang has extensive farmlands irrigated by the Miktrin TsangpoMig sprin gtsang po. According to a local elder, respected for his knowledge of history, named Rindzin DorjéRig ’dzin rdo rje (born in the Iron Dog Year, circa 1934), the origins of agriculture at Trashi GangBkra shis sgang can be traced back to the ancient MönMon. The monastery of Trashi GangBkra shis sgang was built inside the ruins of a large citadel situated on a small eminence in the Senggé TsangpoSeng ge gtsang po valley. The massive rammed earth walls of the fortress are up to 1.3 m thick. These walls are long and straight, giving rise to a rectangular plan not unlike Moghul fortresses of north India. There are also a few stone and adobe-block walls of the old residential structures still intact. On the west end of the fortress there are F-shaped loopholes and the remains of two round defensive towers set outside the ramparts. The entire citadel appears to have been circumvallated. According to lama KhenrapMkhan rab (born in the Snake Year, circa 1929), a native of NamrupönGnam ru dpon, and the senior-most monk at Trashi GangBkra shis sgang, the monastery was under the authority of the abbot of Sera JéSe ra rje in Lhasa. The first Gelukpadge lugs pa abbot was Ngawang ChokdenNgag dbang mchog ldan, a teacher of the seventh Dalai Lama. Also, according to lama KhenrapMkhan rab, before the time of Ganden TsewangDga’ ldan tshe dbang, Trashi GangBkra shis sgang monastery belonged to the Drukpa Kagyü’brug pa bka’ brgyud subsect.202


[200] The main territorial god (yüllhayul lha) of Trashi GangBkra shis sgang is LhagöLha rgod, whose residence is a rocky mountain on the opposite side of the Senggé TsangpoSeng ge gtsang po valley.
[201] Vitali, Roberto. Records of Tho.ling: A Literary and Visual Reconstruction of the “Mother” Monastery in Gu.ge (Dharamsala: High Asia, Amnye Machen Institute, 1999), 48.
[202] For detailed information on Trashi Gang GönpaBkra shis sgang dgon pa, see Gugé Tsering GyelpoGu ge tshe ring rgyal po. Ngari Chömjung Gangjong DzegyenMnga’ ris chos ’byung gangs ljongs mdzes rgyan (Lha sa: Bö Jong Mimang Petrün KhangBod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 2006), 78–92.

Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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