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

Gakchen’Gag chen

Basic site data

  • Site name: Gakchen’Gag chen
  • Site number: D-110
  • Site typology: II.1a, II.2a, II.2b, II.2c
  • Elevation: 4620 m
  • Administrative location (township): JangmaByang ma
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: HTWE
  • Survey date: June 21, 2004
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: manima ṇi stones.
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Gakchen’Gag chen is located in the broad Gakchen’Gag chen valley bottom. The various structures of this substantial funerary site are closely grouped together. Gakchen’Gag chen is open in all directions, with the longest views in the south followed by the east. The terrain is sandy and well drained. Corrals and tent foundations built in the vicinity have heavily impacted the archaeological site. These pastoral structures were probably constructed with stones extracted from the funerary monuments. Fortunately, there are no signs of more recent damage to the site. The site consists of no less than twelve enclosures of various sizes exhibiting single-course, double-course and heaped-stone walls. The funerary structures of Gakchen’Gag chen are made of uncut pieces of variable-length (10 cm to 60 cm long) gray granite. There is a lone granite pillar marking the site as well. There are also minor structural traces spread around Gakchen’Gag chen that were not surveyed.

Oral tradition

According to local sources Gakchen’Gag chen is a site associated with the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Upper sector
Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (12.4 m by 13.6 m) is a quadrate enclosure roughly aligned in the cardinal directions. The entire structure is elevated 50 cm to 1 m above the surrounding terrain. The well-built, double-course walls (50 cm to 70 cm thick) are partly intact. An east-west partition wall bisects the enclosure into two parts. The south cell is 7.6 m in width and the north cell is 4.2 m wide. Against the central portion of the west wall of the enclosure there is a small tumulus, which may be the remains of some kind of interior structure. Two manima ṇi plaques rest on this tumulus. Near the northwest corner of FS1 there is an incomplete subsidiary interior enclosure (1.4 m by 2.5 m), whose perimeter walls contain stones embedded in the ground. Loose stones are scattered all around FS1; probably once an integral part of the structure.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 (18.3 m 17.5 m) is situated 8 m southeast of FS1. It lies diagonally to FS1 and FS3. This quadrate enclosure is not aligned in the cardinal directions. Parts of all four of its double-course walls (60 cm to 90 cm thick) are intact. FS2 is level with the surrounding terrain or elevated slightly above it. Loose stones obscure much of the structure. In the west corner of the enclosure, walls demarcate a subsidiary interior enclosure (6 m by 7 m).

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 is situated 10 m east of FS2. FS3 is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 11.6 m (north-south) by 6 m (east-west). This structure is elevated about 50 cm above the surrounding terrain, and its double-course perimeter walls are around 50 cm thick. These walls may have been more than one vertical course in height. Rubble is strewn all across the enclosure. On the east side of FS3 there is an attached cell of the same design, which measures 10 m (east-west). Much of the east wall of this ancillary cell is missing. Between FS2 and FS3 there is a large piece of granite (1.6 m long by 50 cm wide) lying on the ground. This flat stone is of the type that is sometimes used for the burial chambers of Upper Tibetan tombs.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (3.6 m by 3.9 m) is situated 2 m east of FS3. FS4 is elevated around 50 cm above the circumjacent terrain. Its thick perimeter walls are bereft of any design coherence; stones are merely piled up against an earthen embankment. In the middle of this enclosure, a fixed stone protrudes 30 cm above the ground surface.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 (4.2 m by 5.7 m) is situated 2.5 m east of FS4. This structure is elevated a maximum of 70 cm above the surrounding terrain. Its surface is almost completely covered in stones. A course of large stones (up to 80 cm long) runs along the base of the south side of FS5.

Funerary Structure FS6

Funerary structure FS6 is situated 4 m north of FS3. FS6 is aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 13.3 m (east-west) by 4.5 m (north-south). This partially intact enclosure is level with the ground surface.

Funerary Structure FS7

Funerary structure FS7 (7.1 m by 5.4 m minimum) is situated 2.5 m north of FS6. This is a highly fragmentary enclosure.

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8 (3.6 m by 3.3 m) is situated 4.7 m west of FS7. This highly dissolute structure has stones embedded over much of its surface. FS8 may have possessed double-course perimeter walls.

Lower sector

Funerary structures FS9 to FS12 are situated at approximately 5 m lower elevation, in closer proximity to the Gakchen Chu’Gag chen chu.

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9 (dimensions unavailable) is situated 34 m south of FS3. This irregularly shaped enclosure has heaped-stone walls.

Funerary Structure FS10

Funerary structure FS10 (2.5 m by 3 m) is situated 2.4 m east of FS9. The incomplete single-course perimeter contains large upright stones (up to 1 m long), which project as much as 40 cm above the ground surface.

Funerary Structure FS11

Funerary structure FS11 (14 m by 11 m) is situated 10 m south of FS9. This enclosure has been severely damaged. The remaining in situ evidence suggests that it may have had double-course perimeter walls. These walls contain stones flush with the ground surface or which rise above to a maximum height of 30 cm.

Funerary Structure FS12

Funerary structure FS12 (10m by 13.6 m) is situated 18.4 m southwest of FS11. FS12 does not exhibit coherent walls. Stones are embedded and scattered all across this structure.


A lone gray granite pillar (1.1 m [height] by 1.5 m [basal girth]) is found in the lower sector directly below the upper sector funerary structures. This pillar is situated 10 m north of FS9 and 24 m south of FS3. This uncut pyramidal stone is highly eroded and there are small spots of orange climax lichen growing on it. It appears to be an integral part of the funerary site.


Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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