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

TsemdaRtse mda’

Basic site data

  • Site name: TsemdaRtse mda’
  • English equivalent: Arrow Peak
  • Site number: D-84
  • Site typology: II.2x
  • Elevation: 4890 m
  • Administrative location (township): MepaSmad pa
  • Administrative location (county): ShentsaShan rtsa
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: September 26, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS IX, HAS D4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

TsemdaRtse mda’ is located on a spur that widens to form a tableland, which sits on a mountain of the same name. Directly south and 150 m below the site is the sacred freshwater lake, Mukyu TsoSmu skyu mtsho/Mokyu TsoRmo khyu mtsho (Bevy of Grandmothers Lake). To the east is the NgorangSngo rang valley and to the west is a mountain known as GonyisMgo gnyis (Two Heads). The view north is cut off by the TsemdaRtse mda’ mountain. The terrain is turf-covered, sandy and gently sloping. There are three or four funerary enclosures at TsemdaRtse mda’ that are probably best classified under the heaped-stone wall typology. They variously exhibit irregular forms, tops inset below the upper slope, gentle slope gradients, and traces of piled stones walls; traits associated with heaped-stone wall enclosures.

The funerary structures of TsemdaRtse mda’ also have morphological qualities associated with the terraced tombs of the far eastern JangtangByang thang (elevated forward flanks, flat tops and low elevation amorphous walls). The terraced tombs, however, appear to have had a weaker influence on the design and construction of TsemdaRtse mda’ than the heaped-stone wall enclosures. Nonetheless, only subsurface investigations can definitively chart the typological affinities of the TsemdaRtse mda’ funerary structures. The perimeter walls (around 70 cm thick) are generally in a very poor state of preservation, and have been reduced to only 10 cm to 20 cm height. Although the surface of the structures now inclines in conformity with the slope gradient, it is likely that they were once completely level. These funerary structures were built of variable-length (10 cm to 60 cm long) pieces of red volcanic rock. Heaped-stone wall enclosures are widespread to the west all the way across the JangtangByang thang. Such structures are closely associated with the ancient MönMon in the oral tradition of the region. There are no signs that TsemdaRtse mda’ has been recently disturbed.

Oral tradition

The structures of TsemdaRtse mda’ are locally referred to as möndo ramon rdo ra (Stone Enclosures of the MönMon). These are supposed to be ancient MönMon habitations that were built when the level of Mukyu TsoSmu skyu mtsho was much higher.

Site elements

The structures of TsemdaRtse mda’ have the following dimensions, locations and salient features:

  1. Funerary structure FS1 (7.3 m by 5 m) is missing an east wall and is now U-shaped.
  2. Funerary structure FS2 is situated 1.6 m north of FS1. It consists of a single sinuous wall fragment 11.5 m in length. If this wall was originally part of an enclosure, as seems likely, all other traces of it have disappeared.
  3. Funerary structure FS3 (9 m by 10.6 m) is an ovoid enclosure with an elevated forward flank situated 5.5 m east of FS2. It is the only complete enclosure at TsemdaRtse mda’.
  4. Funerary structure FS4 (5 m across) is situated 9 m northeast of FS3. The upper part of its perimeter wall is missing. The forward flank of FS4 is prominently elevated above the downhill slope.

Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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