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

Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po

Basic site data

  • Site name: Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po
  • English equivalent: Victory Banner Heights
  • Site number: D-77
  • Site typology: II.2e
  • Elevation: 4670 m to 4710 m
  • Administrative location (township): DesarSde gsar
  • Administrative location (county): AmdoA mdo
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: September 17, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Fragments of red sandstone manima ṇi plaques.
  • Maps: UTRS IX
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

The terraced funerary structures of Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po are located on the east flanks of a mountain of the same name. To the east, DungtsoMdung mtsho ([A Tak LumoA stag klu mo] Spear Lake) and the sacred mountains NamraNam ra and kyungkaSkyung ka are within view.207 These prominent topographical features seem likely to have had religious significance to the builders of the mortuary site. The terrain is mostly turf-blanketed and consists of broad slopes with around a 15° gradient. Just above the site, the slopes of Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po become much steeper. The 64 funerary structures documented begin 200 m vertical above DungtsoMdung mtsho and tend to form long meandering rows that run transverse to the axis of the slope. It is reported that, in the early 1970s, large quantities of stones were removed from the funerary structures in order to build a large collective corral, situated about 300 m south of the site. This pilferage caused a huge amount of damage to Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po, complicating a morphological assessment of the funerary structures.

The terraced structures of Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po (4 m² to 85 m²) have rectangular and sub-rectangular forms, and were built with flat tops. The stones found along the edges and tops of the majority of these constructions have no obvious design or arrangement; rather, they appear to be incoherent masonry aggregations. Some specimens, however, have walls along the rim of the structure and there are indications that certain of these are of the double-course variety. Where coherent walls exist, they often are generally aligned in the cardinal directions. Most rear/uphill perimeter walls of the terraced structures have been obliterated. Yet, in other specimens, stonework is visible on all four sides of the rim. As a general rule, the two sides of the structures with longer dimensions are oriented perpendicular to the axis of the slope. The forward flanks generally face east and are mostly elevated 20 cm to 70 cm above the downhill slope. Variable-length (primarily 20 cm to 60 cm long), tan and bluish (volcanic?) unshaped stones were used to build the structures. Pieces of milky quartz and red sandstone are also strewn around the site. Originally, these pretty red and white rocks may have formed superficial or decorative embellishments to the funerary structures.

Oral tradition

According to local drokpa’brog pa, Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po represents the ruins of a Buddhist nunnery.

Site elements

The funerary structures of Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po have the following dimensions, locations and salient features:

  1. Funerary structure FS1 (7.3 m by 5.3 m). FS1 has been reduced to a rocky tumulus, about 20 cm in height. It is the lowest specimen at Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po.
  2. Funerary structure FS2 is highly fragmentary.
  3. Funerary structure FS3 is highly fragmentary.
  4. Funerary structure FS4 is highly fragmentary.
  5. Funerary structure FS5 is highly fragmentary.
  6. Funerary structure FS6 is highly fragmentary. There are probably other specimens immediately to the south of FS6, but they are so degraded as to be virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain.
  7. Funerary structure FS7 is highly fragmentary (37.321΄ / 04.822΄).
  8. Funerary structure FS8 is highly fragmentary (37.327΄ / 04.827΄). There also appear to be two adjacent but extremely degraded specimens.
  9. Funerary structure FS9 (4.7 m long) (37.330΄ / 04.834΄).
  10. Funerary structure FS10 (5.6 m long) (37.333΄ / 04.836΄).
  11. Funerary structure FS11 (3.5 m by 3.3 m) (37.345΄ / 04.837΄).
  12. Funerary structure FS12 is highly fragmentary (37.329΄ / 04.855΄).
  13. Funerary structure FS13 (5 m by 3.8 m) (37.357΄ / 04.827΄).
  14. Funerary structure FS14 (4 m long) (37.356΄ / 04.818΄).
  15. Funerary structure FS15 (7.8 m) (37.356΄ / 04.808΄). The forward flank of this specimen has a height of 1.5 m.
  16. Funerary structure FS16 (7.7 m by 5 m) (37.365΄ / 04.807΄). The forward flank of this specimen has a height of 1.5 m.
  17. Funerary structure FS17 (6.3 m by 5.3 m) (37.341΄ / 04.789΄). The rear wall of FS17 is inset 20 cm into the slope. This is the highest specimen at Gyeltsen TönpoRgyal mtshan mthon po.
  18. Funerary structure FS18 (5 m by 3 m) (37.320΄ / 04.777΄).
  19. Funerary structure FS19 (3 m by 3 m) (37.315΄ / 04.780΄).
  20. Funerary structure FS20 is highly fragmentary (37.257΄ / 04.774΄).
  21. Funerary structure FS21 (5.3 m by 5.3 m) (37.257΄ / 04.784΄). Fragments of double-course walls (80 cm thick) are intact around the rim of this structure.
  22. Funerary structure FS22 is highly fragmentary (37.284΄ / 04.783΄).
  23. Funerary structure FS23 is a larger specimen with part of all four walls of its rim intact (37.387΄ / 04.805΄).
  24. Funerary structure FS24 (10.3 m by 8.3 m) (37.373΄ / 04.816΄). The rear wall of this specimen is elevated 30 cm.
  25. Funerary structure FS25 (5.4 m by 4 m) (37.387΄ / 04.842΄).
  26. Funerary structure FS26 (5.7 m long) (37.383΄ / 04.843΄). A small shepherd’s shelter (droklhé’brog lhas) was built on this structure.
  27. Funerary structure FS27 (6 m by 5.6 m) (37.381΄ / 04.850΄).
  28. Funerary structure FS28 (2 m by 2.2 m) (37.383΄ / 04.858΄).
  29. Funerary structure FS29 (3.3 m by 3.3 m) (37.377΄ / 04.856΄).
  30. Funerary structure FS30 is highly fragmentary (37.375΄ / 04.854΄).
  31. Funerary structure FS31 (5.6 m by 4.3 m) (37.369΄ / 04.851΄).
  32. Funerary structure FS32 is highly fragmentary (37.365΄ / 04.848΄).
  33. Funerary structure FS33 (3.9 m by 3.2 m) (37.360΄ / 04.836΄).
  34. Funerary structure FS34 (2.7 m long) (37.349΄ / 04.845΄).
  35. Funerary structure FS35 (3.2 m) (37.349΄ / 04.849΄).
  36. Funerary structure FS36 is highly fragmentary (37.346΄ / 04.844΄).
  37. Funerary structure FS37 (4.4 m by 4.4 m) (37.344΄ / 04.855΄).
  38. Funerary structure FS38 is highly fragmentary (37.339΄ / 04.844΄).
  39. Funerary structure FS39 is highly fragmentary (37.366΄ / 04.844΄).
  40. Funerary structure FS40 is highly fragmentary (3.5 m by 3.4 m) (37.337΄ / 04.851΄).
  41. Funerary structure FS41 (4.8 m by 4 m) (37.343΄ / 04.852΄).
  42. Funerary structure FS42 (7 m by 3 m) (37.351΄ / 04.855΄).
  43. Funerary structure FS43 is highly fragmentary (37.354΄ / 04.855΄).
  44. Funerary structure FS44 is highly fragmentary (37.355΄ / 04.848΄).
  45. Funerary structure FS45 (3.6 m long) (37.358΄ / 04.857΄).
  46. Funerary structure FS46 (4.9 m by 3.6 m) (37.361΄ / 04.859΄).
  47. Funerary structure FS47 (4 m long) (37.367΄ / 04.861΄).
  48. Funerary structure FS48 is highly fragmentary (37.370΄ / 04.862΄).
  49. Funerary structure FS49 (4.2 m by 4.1 m) (37.372΄ / 04.863΄).
  50. Funerary structure FS50 is highly fragmentary (37.377΄ / 04.860΄).
  51. Funerary structure FS51 (4.4 m long) (37.379΄ / 04.862΄).
  52. Funerary structure FS52 is highly fragmentary (37.382΄ / 04.863΄).
  53. Funerary structure FS53 is highly fragmentary (37.373΄ / 04.872΄).
  54. Funerary structure FS54 (2.2 m by 2.2 m) (37.371΄ / 04.871΄).
  55. Funerary structure FS55 is highly fragmentary (37.369΄ / 04.870΄).
  56. Funerary structure FS56 (4 m long) (37.367΄ / 04.870΄).
  57. Funerary structure FS57 is highly fragmentary (37.366΄ / 04.869΄).
  58. Funerary structure FS58 is highly fragmentary (37.364΄ / 04.868΄).
  59. Funerary structure FS59 is highly fragmentary (37.362΄ / 04.866΄).
  60. Funerary structure FS60 (3.3 m long) (37.359΄ / 04.865΄).
  61. Funerary structure FS61 is highly fragmentary (37.352΄ / 04.864΄).
  62. Funerary structure FS62 (6.4 m by 4.2 m) (37.349΄ / 04.859΄).
  63. Funerary structure FS63 (3.3 m long) (37.348΄ / 04.858΄).
  64. Funerary structure FS64 (3.7 m long) (37.344΄ / 04.858΄).

Notes

[207] For information about these two sacred mountains, see Bellezza, Calling Down the Gods.
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Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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