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

Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong
  • English equivalent: Prow Face Ruins
  • Site number: D-97
  • Site typology: II.2e
  • Elevation: 4640 m to 4710 m
  • Administrative location (township): BartaBar tha
  • Administrative location (county): NakchuNag chu
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 30, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing and sky burial.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: manima ṇi plaques.
  • Maps: UTRS IX
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong is located on the slopes of the narrow RidéRi sde valley, south of NagoNa mgo (an area of around 50 drokpa’brog pa households). The RidéRi sde valley is totally uninhabited. Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong has an eastern aspect and wide views to the northeast in the direction of Neri BültsoNe ri bul mtsho. There are no less than 140 terraced funerary structures that are arrayed on a turf-carpeted, moderately steep slope, beginning 60 m above the RidéRi sde valley floor. According to local information, at least some of these funerary structures were used for burial purposes.

The terraced funerary structures of Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong are small to medium-sized examples of the II.2e typology. They range in size between 9 m² and 122 m², with most specimens under 40 m². They were built from a bluish metamorphic rock of variable length (10 cm to 50 cm long). The use of smaller stones predominates in the structures. Some of the stones used in construction may have been roughly shaped. Most of these structures are roughly aligned in the cardinal directions. In general, the two longer sides of each structure are aligned perpendicular to the axis of the slope (north-south). The rear walls of the terraced structures are usually level with the slope or set slightly below it (to a depth of around 20 cm). Presumably, some rear walls, depressed below the angle of the slope, have been evened out due to erosive forces. The forward flanks of the structures are usually elevated 30 cm to 1 m above the downhill slope. Some specimens have rather crudely built, random-rubble forward walls consisting of several vertical courses of masonry (20 cm to 70 cm high). The walls on the rim of the terraced structures were crudely built and mostly of the double-course variety. These walls do not exhibit much structural coherence. In some specimens, each side of the rim of the structure is lined with such walls. Terraced tombs like those of Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong are found in the far eastern JangtangByang thang between BartaBar tha in the east and the Jakar TsangpoJa dkar gtsang po of NamruGnam ru in the west. The funerary structures of Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong do not appear to have been recently disturbed.

Oral tradition

Local sources commonly believe that Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong is the ruins of a Buddhist monastery destroyed by the 18th century CE Jungarjun gar. At some point in history, the funerary identity of the site receded from the collective memory and was replaced with this apocryphal tale. The fear of archaic cultural burial sites must have played a role in the recasting of Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong’s identity. This reconfiguration of the cultural significance of the site, however, is not complete. Certain drokpa’brog pa elders report that square burial chambers were found inside some of the terraced structures, and that the interred corpses were adorned with patterned agates and coral. The locations of tombs that were opened are no longer clear. The use of funerary structure FS2 as a sky burial site also indicates that the funerary function of the site was never fully forgotten.

Site elements

The dimensions, locations and characteristics of the Gyangro NadongGyang ro sna gdong terraced structures are as follows:

  1. Funerary structure FS1 (8.3 m by 5.5 m) is the lowest specimen at the site.
  2. Funerary structure FS2 (4.6 m by 3.6 m) has part of its masonry forward wall up to 50 cm high intact. Some manima ṇi stones and old knives are found on this structure. FS2 is used as a local sky burial site.
  3. Funerary structure FS3 (7 m by 5 m).
  4. Funerary structure FS4 (6.7 m by 4. 3 m) has a forward wall fragment.
  5. Funerary structure FS4a (8 m by 5.3 m).
  6. Funerary structure FS5 (4 m by 3.8 m) has a small forward wall segment.
  7. Funerary structure FS6 (4.6 m by 3.6 m) has forward wall fragments up to 30 cm in height.
  8. Funerary structure FS7 (7 m by 6.7 m).
  9. Funerary structure FS8 (6.7 m by 4.9 m).
  10. Funerary structure FS9 (5.3 m by 4.7 m).
  11. Funerary structure FS10 (4.2 m by 3.8 m).
  12. Funerary structure FS11 (5.1 m by 4.3 m) has small forward wall fragments.
  13. Funerary structure FS12 (4.5 m by 4.5 m).
  14. Funerary structure FS13 (6.6 m by 4.9 m).
  15. Funerary structure FS14 (9 m by 6.9 m) has small forward wall fragments up to 30 cm in height.
  16. Funerary structure FS15 (7.7 m by 5 m).
  17. Funerary structure FS16 (5.4 m by 3.9 m).
  18. Funerary structure FS17 (6.8 m by 4.5 m).
  19. Funerary structure FS18 (7.4 m by 6 m).
  20. Funerary structure FS19 (7.5 m by 4 m).
  21. Funerary structure FS20 (4.9 m by 3.3 m).
  22. Funerary structure FS21 (7.6 m by 4.3 m) has a small forward wall fragment.
  23. Funerary structure FS22 (3.6 m by 3.6 m).
  24. Funerary structure FS23 (6.4 m by 4.6 m).
  25. Funerary structure FS24 (5.5 m by 4.2 m).
  26. Funerary structure FS25 (6.4 m by 4.9 m).
  27. Funerary structure FS26 (6.7 m by 5.6 m) has a portion of its rear wall inset below the uphill slope.
  28. Funerary structure FS27 (6 m by 5.1 m).
  29. Funerary structure FS28 (4.2 m by 3.8 m).
  30. Funerary structure FS29 (3.8 m by 4.2 m).
  31. Funerary structure FS30 (5.7 m by 4.5 m).
  32. Funerary structure FS31 (6.6 m by 5.2 m).
  33. Funerary structure FS32 (5.4 m by 4 m).
  34. Funerary structure FS33 (6.3 m by 5.2 m) has a small forward wall fragment and a small part of the rear wall inset below the upper slope intact. There is a gully between FS32 and FS33.
  35. Funerary structure FS34 (5 m by 4.5 m).
  36. Funerary structure FS35 (4.2 m by 4 m).
  37. Funerary structure FS36 (size unclear).
  38. Funerary structure FS37 (8.4 m by 5.9 m).
  39. Funerary structure FS38 (8.5 m by 6 m).
  40. Funerary structure FS39 (4.3 m by 3.5 m).
  41. Funerary structure FS40 (7.4 m by 5.2 m).
  42. Funerary structure FS41 (7.3 m by 5.4 m).
  43. Funerary structure FS42 (6.1 m by 4.6 m).
  44. Funerary structure FS43 (9.2 m by 5.5 m).
  45. Funerary structure FS44 (7.8 m by 6 m).
  46. Funerary structure FS45 (4.8 m by 3.3 m).
  47. Funerary structure FS46 (5.6 m by 4.8 m).
  48. Funerary structure FS47 (7.2 m by 5.7 m).
  49. Funerary structure FS48 (7.3 m by 6.1 m) has an intact rear wall segment, 1 m long. There are some old stone plaques inscribed with the manima ṇi mantra lying between FS47 and FS48.
  50. Funerary structure FS49 (6.1 m by 6.1 m) has most of its rear wall inset 20 cm below the upper slope.
  51. Funerary structure FS50 (5.2 m by 4.8 m).
  52. Funerary structure FS51 (5.1 m by 4.2 m).
  53. Funerary structure FS52 (12.1 m by 7.6 m) has a forward wall elevated about 1.5 m above the downhill slope.
  54. Funerary structure FS53 (11.6 m by 7.7 m). FS52 and FS53 are situated near the upper end of the site.
  55. Funerary structure FS54 (7.6 m by 5.1 m).
  56. Funerary structure FS55 (7.1 m by 5.2 m).
  57. Funerary structure FS56 (5.3 m by 4.2 m).
  58. Funerary structure FS57 (4.8 m by 3.9 m).
  59. Funerary structure FS58 (4.7 m by 3.7 m).
  60. Funerary structure FS59 (9.1 m by 5.2 m).
  61. Funerary structure FS60 (7.2 m by 4.9 m).
  62. Funerary structure FS61 (6.9 m by 6.2 m).
  63. Funerary structure FS62 (7.2 m by 4.6 m).
  64. Funerary structure FS63 (7.2 m by 4.9 m).
  65. Funerary structure FS64 (6.7 m by 4.5 m).
  66. Funerary structure FS65 (4.8 m by 3.8 m).
  67. Funerary structure FS66 (size unclear).
  68. Funerary structure FS67 (4.2 m by 3.5 m).
  69. Funerary structure FS68 (5.3 m by 4.4 m) has a forward wall segment, about 30 cm in height.
  70. Funerary structure FS69 (6.9 m by 4.9 m).
  71. Funerary structure FS70 (4.7 m by 3 m).
  72. Funerary structure FS71 (size unclear) has a small forward wall fragment, around 30 cm in height.
  73. Funerary structure FS72 (size unclear).
  74. Funerary structure FS73 (8.8 m across).
  75. Funerary structure FS74 (size unclear). There are probably other highly deteriorated specimens in the vicinity of FS74.
  76. Funerary structure FS75 (7.6 m by 3.9 m).
  77. Funerary structure FS76 (7.1 m by 5.2 m).
  78. Funerary structure FS77 (4.3 m by 3.1 m).
  79. Funerary structure FS78 (4.3 m across).
  80. Funerary structure FS79 (5.7 m by 4.5 m).
  81. Funerary structure FS80 (size unclear).
  82. Funerary structure FS81 (5.3 m by 2.6 m).
  83. Funerary structure FS82 (3.3 m by 2.6 m). There are possibly other specimens north of FS82.
  84. Funerary structure FS83 (size data unavailable).
  85. Funerary structure FS84 (size unclear) has a coherent wall fragment, 20 cm in height.
  86. Funerary structure FS85 (data unavailable).
  87. Funerary structure FS86 (data unavailable).
  88. Funerary structure FS87 (4.3 m by 3.2 m).
  89. Funerary structure FS88 (4.6 m by 3.6 m) has a forward wall, 40 cm to 70 cm in height.
  90. Funerary structure FS89 (size unclear).
  91. Funerary structure FS90 to FS97 form a single row that extends north of the rest of the cemetery.
  92. Funerary structure FS90 (4.8 m by 3.2 m) has a forward wall fragment.
  93. Funerary structure FS91 (size unclear).
  94. Funerary structure FS92 (4.1 m by 3.9 m).
  95. Funerary structure FS93 (size unclear).
  96. Funerary structure FS94 (5 m by 3.1 m) has a small forward wall fragment.
  97. Funerary structure FS95 (5.1 m by 2.8 m).
  98. Funerary structure FS96 (2.8 m across).
  99. Funerary structure FS97 (6.1 m across) is the most northerly specimen at the site.
  100. Funerary structure FS98 (size unclear).
  101. Funerary structure FS99 (size unclear).
  102. Funerary structure FS100 (size unclear).
  103. Funerary structure FS101 (6.4 m by 4 m).
  104. Funerary structure FS102 (6.1 m by 4.4 m).
  105. Funerary structure FS103 (unclear size).
  106. Funerary structure FS104 (size unclear) has a forward wall fragment raised just above ground level.
  107. Funerary structure FS105 (4.4 m across) has a forward wall fragment raised just above ground level.
  108. Funerary structure FS106 (6 m across).
  109. Funerary structure FS107 (5.9 m by 3.6 m).
  110. Funerary structure FS108 (6.5 m by 4.3 m).
  111. Funerary structure FS109 (size unclear).
  112. Funerary structure FS110 (4.2 m across).
  113. Funerary structure FS111 (4.8 m across).
  114. Funerary structure FS112 (4.5 m across).
  115. Funerary structure FS113 (size unclear).
  116. Funerary structure FS114 (3.7 m across).
  117. Funerary structure FS115 (5.1 m by 3.8 m).
  118. Funerary structure FS116 (5 m across).
  119. Funerary structure FS117 (size unclear).
  120. Funerary structure FS118 (4.8 m by 3.3 m).
  121. Funerary structure FS119 (size unclear).
  122. Funerary structure FS120 (size unclear).
  123. Funerary structure FS121 (size unclear).
  124. Funerary structure FS122 (size unclear).
  125. Funerary structure FS123 (4 m by 3.3 m).
  126. Funerary structure FS124 (size unclear) has a small forward wall fragment.
  127. Funerary structure FS125 (size unclear).
  128. Funerary structure FS126 (5.4 m by 3.9 m).
  129. Funerary structure FS127 (4.6 m across).
  130. Funerary structure FS128 (5.2 m by 3.8 m).
  131. Funerary structure FS129 (4.8 m by 4.3 m).
  132. Funerary structure FS130 (size unclear).
  133. Funerary structure FS131 (4.6 m by 3.6 m) has a forward wall fragment, 20 cm to 30 cm in height. A small gully cuts across the top of FS131.
  134. Funerary structure FS132 (size unclear).
  135. Funerary structure FS133 (size unclear).
  136. Funerary structure FS134 (5 m across) has a forward wall fragment, up to 30 cm in height.
  137. Funerary structure FS135 (6.2 m by 4.7 m).
  138. Funerary structure FS136 (5 m across).
  139. Funerary structure FS137 (size unclear).
  140. Funerary structure FS138 (5.1 m by 4.7 m).
  141. Funerary structure FS139 (size unclear).
  142. Funerary structure FS140 (6.3 m across) is the highest specimen at the site.
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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.