Zhangzhung Civilization in Ngari
Ruins of Zhangzhung Kingdom
Zhangzhung, Xang Xung in Tibetan Language, was an ancient cultural and political kingdom of western Tibet, predating the culture of Tibetan Buddhism by 400 years. According to the research,related with the Bon religion, Zhangzhung culture also has a profound influence on the concepts and actions of Tibetan Buddhism. In ancient Tibetan document, Zhangzhung is considered as the original rulers of western Tibet. Due to the awful climate and difficult transportation, the experts only have got chances to do research at the areas once dominated by Zhangzhung in the last two decades.
Map of Zhangzhung Kingdom
It’s said that Zhangzhung civilization was made up of 18 kingdoms in the west and northwest portion of Tibet. Centering on Mt.Kailash, Zhangzhung culture extended to a wide geographical area and affected the major portion of Tibet. Zhangzhung consisted of three parts:zhang zhung sgo ba,the outer; zhang zhung phug pa,the inner and zhang zhung bar ba,the middle.
The capital city of Zhangzhung,Khyunglung in the modern-day Ngari Prefecture of Tibet
Khyunglung (the "Silver Palace of Garuda"), the capital city of Zhangzhung, is located at southwest of Mount Kailash and identified with palaces found in the upper Sutlej Valley. On the shore of Lake Dangra, a towering fort named Chugtso Dropo was established by Zhangzhung, from which they exerted military power over the surrounding district in central Tibet. Undergoing through thousands of years’ weathering, Zhangzhung has been badly destroyed. The upper part still keep the original color of Toling, while the lower part is silver. Maybe that’s the reason why it is called Silver Palace of Garuda. Even if the glory has gone, you would definitely be amazed by the magnificent ruins.
Writing & Religion
Being referred to many times in the documents, powerful Zhangzhung kingdom is the cradle for Bon religion and its unique writing.
Imperial Seal of Zhangzhung Kingdom
Wall painting in Zhangzhung Dynasty
Bon was the official religion of the Zhangzhung kingdom which have flourished till about 700AD. With introducing Buddhism into Tibet, Bon religion was regarded as a political threat by Songtsen Gampo, the first king of Tubo Kingdom, and then he launched wars to eliminate all the remnants of Bon. With the devastation of Zhangzhung kingdom, Bon religion declined.
It is generally considered that Tibet had no written language until King Songtsen Gampo. But there are some stories showing that a millenium prior to Songtsen Gampo,Tonpa Shenrab had taught the calculation of astrology, medicine and other teachings in Tibet. It is also said that he invented the first writing, which did not exist before him.
Most of Tibetans living styles and customs can be traced back to Zhangzhung dynasty such as circuiting Mt.Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, hanging the colorful prayer flags, piling marnyi stone and so on.
Zhangzhung Cultural Festival
Tibetans were dancing to celebrate Zhangzhung Cultural Festival.
In order to advocate its rich cultural heritage, Zhangzhung Cultural Festival has been established by the local government. Here you can take part in a series of local activities like the competition of tourism photography, culture &tourism forum, ect. The festival lasts about the whole month in August, from which you can experience Ngari unique customs and get a deeper understanding of Zhangzhung culture.