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

Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha

Basic site data

  • Site name: Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha (sp.?)
  • Site number: D-125
  • Site typology: II.2a, II.2b
  • Elevation: 4620 m to 4630 m
  • Administrative location (township): Urmé’Ur smad
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: TUE
  • Survey date: October 8, 2005
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS VIII
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha is located in a valley system through which the road passes that links Uru Tso’U ru mtsho to GanglungGangs lung. It is likely that the tsitsirtsi rtsid part of the site name refers to goats, but this could not be confirmed. Light-colored limestone formations border the east side of the site, while a broad plain opens to the west. From the site, the northern and southern directions are also quite open. The terrain is well drained, gravelly and very gradually tapers down towards the east. Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha can be divided into two sectors: lower/east (dominated by a huge enclosure and a number of more minor examples) and upper/west (23 enclosures). There are also minor structural remains dispersed around the site that were not surveyed. All structures of Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha are constructed of unshaped pieces of variable-length, light-colored limestone.

Oral tradition

According to one local drokpa’brog pa interviewed, Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha is associated with the ancient MönMon.

Site Elements

East Sector
Giant Enclosure

The east sector is dominated by a gigantic, double-course funerary enclosure that is roughly aligned in the cardinal directions. This structure is 103 m in length (east-west), making it the largest funerary enclosure surveyed to date. The east wall is 37 m long and the west wall is 28 m long. There are right angle bends (approximately 3.5 m long) in both the north and south walls, 23 m east of the west wall, which account for the difference in the width of the east and west sides of the structure. The double-course and multiple-course perimeter walls (around 70 cm thick) are composed of uncut, variable-length (up to 70 cm long) pieces of light-colored limestone. Some sections of the perimeter walls are of superficial construction, consisting of blocky stones embedded in the ground. Many of these stones project up to 35 cm above the ground surface. Other sections (particularly on the east and north sides of the enclosure) consist of up to five vertical courses of stones, producing walls up to 30 cm in height. The east wall of the enclosure is elevated about 50 cm above the adjoining slope. There is an opening in the east wall, 1.7 m in width. This opening begins 14 m from the south corner of the enclosure, and is therefore not very well centered. Most of the interior of the enclosure is devoid of structural elements. However, near the west end of the interior, there are faint rocky dispersions of unknown function. Orange climax lichen grows on the walls of the giant enclosure.

Group of Three Enclosures

Approximately 50 m south of the giant enclosure there are three well-defined squarish funerary enclosures. These enclosures are generally aligned in the cardinal directions and form an east-west row. Their not very coherent, double-course perimeter walls (around 40 cm thick) are composed of stones (10 cm to 50 cm long) embedded in the ground surface. There are also wall sections comprised of stones that probably formed two or three vertical courses (50 cm maximum height). These three enclosures have open interiors. From east to west, they have the following dimensions:

  1. Funerary structure FS1 (3.5 m by 4 m).
  2. Funerary structure FS2 (4.5 m by 5 m) is situated 7.5 m west of FS1.
  3. Funerary structure FS3 (4.3 m by 4 m) is situated 8 m west of FS2.
Minor Parallel Structures

Farther west, beginning 20 m south of the giant enclosure, there are two parallel lines of minor enclosures. These two rows are oriented north-south, but they are not very straight. Each structure in a row is spaced 7.5 m to 9 m apart. The east row (18 m long) contains 7 structures and the shorter west row has four structures. These enclosures (80 cm to 1 m across) are sub-rectangular in form and have single-course perimeter walls. The stones in the perimeter walls are flush with the ground surface or slightly protrude above it. The interiors are variously open or covered in stones. Between the east row and FS3 there is an isolated specimen of the same construction. These structures can tentatively be identified as the totho of the BönBon tradition; minor ritual constructions of diverse (including funerary) functions (see F-3).

North Enclosure Group

There are also several enclosures north of the giant enclosure. These structures appear to have had double-course perimeter walls, but they all suffer from considerable levels of degradation.

  1. Funerary structure FS4 (2.8 m by 3 m) is situated 22 m north of the indentation in the north wall of the giant enclosure. This square enclosure is generally aligned in the cardinal directions and has an open interior. Its perimeter walls are flush with the ground surface.
  2. Funerary structures FS5, FS6 and FS7 are quadrate structures:
  3. Funerary structure FS5 (3.6 m across) is situated 54 m north of the indentation in the north wall of the giant enclosure. FS5 is missing its west wall. Stones extracted from this structure lie in a pile beside it.
  4. Funerary structure FS6 (3.2 m across) is situated 20 m east of FS5. It has no north wall.
  5. Funerary structure FS7 (3 m across) is situated 19 m east of FS6. It has no north wall.
Tripartite Enclosure

A large enclosure is found 17 m north of the east side of the giant enclosure. This uniquely designed enclosure is generally aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 28.5 m (north-south) by 25 m (east-west). The design of the perimeter walls is no longer very clear but they do not appear to have been very substantially built. There appear to have been parallel outer and inner walls on the north and south sides of the enclosure. The inner walls have been nearly effaced. Inside the outer enclosure there are three subsidiary enclosures that are symmetrically arrayed. These long and narrow rectangular structures are also aligned in the cardinal directions. They possess single-course perimeter walls composed of stones up to 45 cm in length, which are embedded in the substrate. These stones are flush with the ground surface or rise above it to a maximum height of 15 cm. The largest of the three subsidiary enclosures is set in the very middle of the outer enclosure. It measures 12 m (east-west) by 1.8 m (north-south). On the east end of the largest subsidiary enclosure there is a band (about 2 m long) of tightly knit stones embedded in the ground. The other two subsidiary enclosures measure approximately 8 m (north-south) by 1.8 m (east-west). They are situated 2 m east of the larger subsidiary enclosure and are aligned at right angles to it. There is a gap of 2.6 m between the two smaller specimens. The two smaller enclosures also have bands of stones covering the ground surface on their facing ends. In the east wall of the outer enclosure there seems to be an opening, which is aligned with the gap between the two smaller subsidiary enclosures. The two smaller subsidiary enclosures appear to merge with inner north and south walls of the outer enclosure.

Funerary structure FS8 (3.5 m across) is situated 18 m north of the tripartite enclosure. The north wall is missing.

West Sector

At the base of the ridge, enclosing the plain in which Tsitsi Mönré TangkaRtsi rtsid mon ra’i thang kha was established, there are two rows of smaller funerary enclosures. These enclosures are situated 240 m west of the giant enclosure. These structures were aligned to conform to the slope gradient and not the cardinal directions. The lower, north-south oriented row contains seven ovoid or sub-rectangular double-course enclosures of similar size and construction (31° 33.46΄ N. lat. / 87° 47.27΄ E. long.). The superficial perimeter walls are around 80 cm in thickness and contain stones that have little protrusion from the ground surface. From south to north, the lower row enclosures have the following dimensions and relative locations:

  1. Funerary structure FS1 (10 m by 8 m).
  2. Funerary structure FS2 (9 m by 10 m) is situated 3 m north of FS1.
  3. Funerary structure FS3 (11 m by 8 m) is situated 3 m north of FS2.
  4. Funerary structure FS4 (11 m by 8 m) is situated 7 m north of FS3.
  5. Funerary structure FS5 (11 m by 8 m) is situated 2 m north of FS4.
  6. Funerary structure FS6 (1 m by 8 m) is situated 7 m north of FS5.
  7. Funerary structure FS7 (11 m by 8 m) is situated 7 m north of FS6.

The northwest-southeast oriented upper row is situated 16 m to 20 m upslope of the lower row. The upper row also contains seven funerary structures. These much smaller terraced structures have an elevated northeast/downhill wall and often no southwest/uphill wall. The pairing of the smaller structures of the upper row with the larger structures of the lower row is an unusual design trait, the cultural significance of which is not evident. Perhaps one type of structure represents the actual tomb while the other is an interrelated funerary ritual venue. From south to north, the upper row structures have the following dimensions and relative locations:

  1. Funerary structure FS8 (4 m by 4 m).
  2. Funerary structure FS9 (3 m by 2.6 m) is situated 11 m northwest of FS8.
  3. Funerary structure FS10 (4 m by 3.8 m) is situated 10 m northwest of FS9.
  4. Funerary structure FS11 (3 m by 2 m) is situated 11 m northwest of FS10.
  5. Funerary structure FS12 (4.5 m by 4 m) is situated 11 m northwest of FS11.
  6. Funerary structure FS13 (3 m by 3 m) is situated 13 m north of FS12.
  7. Funerary structure FS14 (4 m by 3 m) is situated 20 m north of FS13.
  8. There are also a number of other terraced funerary structures of the same type and size as are found in the upper row:
  9. Funerary structure FS15 is a heavily degraded specimen, situated 20 m north of FS14.
  10. Funerary structure FS16 is a heavily degraded specimen, situated 27 m north of FS15.
  11. Funerary structure FS17 is situated 17 m north of FS16.
  12. Funerary structure FS18 is situated 9 m north of FS17.
  13. Funerary structure FS19 is situated 11 m north of FS18.
  14. Funerary structure FS20 is situated 13 m north of FS19.
  15. Funerary structure FS21 is situated 79 m northeast of FS20.
  16. Funerary structure FS22 is situated 46 m north of FS21 (33.598΄ / 47.303΄ / 4640 m).
  17. Funerary structure FS23 (10 m by 20 m) is an irregularly shaped enclosure, situated 32 m east of FS17.

Affiliated Sites

TrapukKhra phug

Near the northwest shoreline of the great salt lake, Kering TsoSke ring mtsho, there appear to be the remains of a funerary structure. This site is called TrapukKhra phug. Reportedly, in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a couple of large, predominantly white limestone enclosures at TrapukKhra phug were used to grow grass or grain shoots. Between these two enclosures there are the remains of a possible funerary enclosure (3.5 m by 3.5 m). The perimeter walls of this highly deteriorated structure are composed of both flat and upright stones. On one corner of the enclosure there is a thin upright slab, which projects 50 cm above ground level.

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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.