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

Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra

Basic site data

  • Site name: Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra (sp.?)
  • Site number: D-126
  • Site typology: II.2b, II.2c, II.2d
  • Elevation: 4760 m to 4800 m
  • Administrative location (township): ZhungméGzhung smad
  • Administrative location (county): ShentsaShan rtsa
  • Survey expedition: TUE
  • Survey date: October 9, 2005
  • Contemporary usage: Pastoral usage.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: manima ṇi and Tsatsatshwa tshwa shrines.
  • Maps: UTRS VIII, HAS D4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra is located in a side valley, north of YundrukG.yu ’brug.215 The turf-covered site enjoys a broad eastern vista. In other directions, surrounding ridges constrain the views. Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra can be divided into two sectors: north (more than one dozen funerary enclosures and mounds) and south (three large mounds and a network of small quadrate structures and slab walls). The two sectors are divided from one another by the valley’s watercourse. All structures of Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra are made of an undressed, variable-length (10 cm to 50 cm long) brown rock.

Oral tradition

Local sources associate Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra with the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

North sector

There are two broad concentrations of funerary enclosures in the north sector. The double-course perimeter walls (50 cm to 70 cm thick) of these enclosures consist of blocks laid flat on the ground.

East concentration
  1. Funerary structure FSA (13 m by 6.5 m) has been reduced to a rocky dispersion with only small fragments of double-course perimeter walls remaining.
  2. Funerary structure FSB (12 m by 6 m) is situated 9 m north of FSA. This extremely degraded enclosure is of the same design and construction as FSA.
  3. Funerary structure FS1 (5.7 m by 3.2 m) is a quadrate enclosure with parts of its double-course perimeter walls intact. FS2 (7.2 m by 6 m) is situated 18 m west of FS1. It is the same type of construction as FS1. There may also be an enclosure between FS1 and FS2.
  4. Funerary structure FS6 (5.5 m by 8 m) is situated 10.7 m southwest of FS2. This rectangular structure is elevated around 50 cm above the surrounding terrain. FS6 has no coherent wall segments remaining.
West concentration
  1. Funerary structure FS3 (9.5 m by 5 m) is situated 26 m west/upslope of FSA. It is now just a rocky dispersion with only hints of coherent walls left in place. Between FS3 and FSA there is at least one small enclosure.
  2. Funerary structure FS4 (5 m by 5.3 m) is a square enclosure adjacent to FS3. FS4 is slightly elevated on all sides and has an open centre. Fragments of double-course walls have endured.
  3. Funerary structure FS5 (5.5 m by 5.7 m) is adjacent to FS4 on its northwest side. The poorly developed walls of this enclosure are mostly level with the ground surface
  4. Funerary structure FS7 (20 m by 18.6 m) is situated 37 m west/upslope of FS6. This irregularly shaped structure is elevated 1.5 m to 2 m above the surrounding terrain. On top of it there are five rocky mounds, all under 1 m in height. In between these mounds there is turf-covered ground. These rocky mounds may be what are left of quadrate masonry structures that were built on top of an earthen mound.
  5. Funerary structure FS8 (9.5 m across) is situated 7 m north of FS7. FS8 is an irregularly shaped, rocky dispersion elevated 50 m above the upper slope and around 1.5 m above the downhill slope. There are perhaps four small enclosures located between FS7 and FS8.
  6. Funerary structure FS9 (11 m by 11 m) is situated 19 m west of FS7. FS9 is a low-lying, quadrate enclosure with in situ double-course wall fragments and an open interior.
South sector

The south sector is situated on the opposite side of the valley’s watercourse from the upper extent of the north sector. There are minor structural remains in the south sector that were not surveyed.

Funerary mound 1

The south sector is dominated by a funerary mound (14 m by 15 m), which is elevated 2 m to 3 m above the surrounding terrain. Funerary mound 1 was built with intricately designed masonry embellishments, of which only small vestiges remain in place. This structure has been heavily impacted by anthropogenic disturbances. It appears that most of its exterior stonewalls were dismantled. The corrals of a nearby homestead appear to be the recipient of the removed stones. Well-built, double-course walls are found embedded on top of the mound. These wall fragments run parallel and perpendicular to one another, but it is not clear what type of structure they created. There are similar wall fragments near the base of the mound. The most extensive of these are found on the east side. It appears that there were tiered walls or a plinth on this side of the mound. There are also masonry wall fragments along the flanks of the mound. The flanks of the mound taper sharply inwards toward the top of the structure, due to the forces of erosion. On top of this flat mound there is a small wall, upon which old plaques inscribed with the manima ṇi mantra rest. This shrine was probably founded in order to subdue negative influences emanating from the funerary site.

Slab-wall and nodular network

Beginning 16.5 m west of the big funerary mound there is a uniquely designed network of funerary structures, 54 m in length. Unfortunately, these structures have been heavily impacted by human activities. This network consists of a series of double-course slab walls (most of which run east-west) linking no less than eight minor quadrate structures or nodes. The slab walls and intervening masonry structures form a single uneven east-west line. The quadrate structures resemble the totho of the BönBon tradition (see F-3). On the eastern extremity of the network there is a wall (3 m long) consisting of upright slabs (15 cm to 25 cm long) placed in parallel courses, 20 cm apart. This wall runs west to the first of the eight nodes, all of which have been reduced to dispersions, 1 m to 3 m across. It appears that these were walled structures of minimal height, but few constructional features are discernable. All eight structures are linked together by double-course slab walls, most segments of which are more heavily built than the most easterly specimen described above.

Funerary mound 2

Funerary mound 2 is situated 13.5 m west of the western extremity of the slab wall and nodular network. It appears to be a low-lying quadrate tumulus that was aligned in the cardinal directions. Its original dimensions and height are uncertain. This funerary mound has been heavily damaged by the action of water. This flat-topped mound is surmounted by a small wall, upon which there are old plaques inscribed with the manima ṇi mantra.

Funerary mound 3

Funerary mound 3 is situated 27 m south of funerary mound 2. This is the most westerly and highest elevation structure at Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra. This heavily disturbed square mound is aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 10 m by 10 m. It is elevated 2.5 m to 3 m above the surrounding terrain. On top of this flat mound there is a small Tsatsatshwa tshwa shrine. On the east side of the mound there is an interconnected earthen platform. This platform is about the same size as the tumulus itself. The platform is traversed by north-south oriented double-course wall fragments (around 50 cm thick) of skillful construction. Funerary mound 3 appears to have been an elaborately designed structure.


[215] Due to time limitations and a raging sandstorm, the survey of Chepu MöndoraChad phu mon rdo ra was kept fairly cursory.

Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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