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.3. Cubic mountaintop tombs

Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po

Basic site data

  • Site name: Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po
  • English equivalent: Purplish Turtle
  • Site number: E-27
  • Site typology: II.3
  • Elevation: 4960 m to 5200 m
  • Administrative location (township): BargaBar ga
  • Administrative location (county): PurangSpu rang
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: October 27, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS X, HAS C4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po is located on an eponymous purplish ridgeback that rises above the west side of the SharmaShar ma valley (base: 4680 m). There are no less than the remains of eleven cubic tombs scattered across the upper half of the talus-covered ridgeline. This rocky spine (runs southeast-northwest) is aligned with the BönBon sacred lake, Langa TsoLa lnga mtsho and the BönBon sacred mountain, Takri TrawoStag ri khra bo/Nemona NyiGnas mo sna gnyis, a geographic situation which is not likely to be a coincidence. The geomantic dimensions of this configuration may have played an important role in the eschatological beliefs of the tomb builders. Above 5000 m, Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po also enjoys good views of the Great Central Himalaya from LemiSle mi to the Uttaranchal border. The existence of relatively well preserved specimens at this site proves that the cubic tomb typology, like that of the walled pillars and array of pillars appended to an edifice typologies, extended to extreme southwestern Tibet. The remote nature of Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po seems to have preserved the tombs from utter destruction or architectural modification by Buddhist zealots. Nyerma Gyam MöndoGnyer ma gyam mon rdo (D-60) and Dzari RakpaRdza ri rag pa (E-21) and Tremo KharSpre mo mkhar (E-26), sites in the same region, do appear to have been as lucky. The structures of Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po are made of uncut grayish slabs and blocks 20 cm to 70 cm in length. Some of the tombs are aligned in the cardinal directions.

Oral tradition

According to drokpa’brog pa of ZhungsaGzhung sa, the Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po remains are the tombs of the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (2 m by 2 m) is not aligned in the cardinal directions. It has a maximum height of 1 m or eight vertical courses of stones along its downhill face. The uphill side of the structure is now nearly level with the slope. The central chamber (reliquary) is partially intact (60 cm by 40 cm by 50 cm [deep]). What appears to be a human vertebra is deposited inside this chamber. Approximately 5 m below FS1 there is a small pile of rubble that was partially transformed into a small rudimentary enclosure. This may have been the location of another cubic tomb.

Funerary structures FS2, FS3 and FS4 are located in a broad south-facing slope just off of the rocky spine of the ridge.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 (2.2 m by 2.5 m) has been reduced to around 30 cm in height (43.919΄ / 06.246΄ / 4970 m).

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 (2.5 m by 2.5 m) is situated 11 m southwest and 3 m lower than FS2. It has been reduced to its fragmentary base.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (2.2 m by 2.3 m) is situated 4 m west of FS3 at the same elevation. This somewhat better preserved specimen appears to have been aligned in the cardinal directions.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 (1.9 m by 2 m) is highly fragmentary (43.958΄ / 06 235΄ / 5000 m). The extant base of the structure has a maximum height of 50 cm, and appears to have been aligned in the cardinal directions. There is another possible cubic tomb in the vicinity but too little remains to be certain of its identity (43.966΄ / 06.270΄ / 4990 m).

Funerary Structure FS6

Funerary structure FS6 has degraded so that only fragments of its base and upper section remain (44.112΄ / 06.128΄ / 5090 m).

Funerary Structure FS7

Funerary structure FS7 (2.2 m by 2 m) is a highly degraded specimen with little height (44.187΄ / 06.052΄ / 5140 m).

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8 (2.2 m by 2 m) has been reduced to a dissolute base (44.218΄ / 06.027΄ / 5170 m).

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9 (2 m by 2.2 m) is situated 10 m northwest of FS8. This specimen is 40 cm to 60 cm in height, and is aligned in the cardinal directions. The central chamber (45 cm by 60 cm) has survived to a depth of 30 cm. The central chamber is lined with smaller stones than those used for the construction of the outer walls.

Funerary Structure FS10

Funerary structure FS10 is a heavily degraded specimen, about 40 cm in height (44.266΄ / 06.013΄ / 5190 m). It appears to have been aligned in the cardinal directions.

Funerary Structure FS11

Funerary structure FS11 (2.2 m by 2 m) is the highest cubic tomb at Rübel MukpoRus sbal smug po (44.308΄ / 06.002΄ / 5200 m). It has been reduced to a height of 50 cm or less. FS11 does not appear to have been aligned in the cardinal directions. The central chamber has been gutted but it is still clearly discernable. It has a maximum depth of 40 cm.

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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.