Khyung Lung Dngul Mkhar

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khyung lung dngul mkhar

General Information

NameKhyunglung Ngülkhar
Transliteration formkhyung lung dngul mkhar
PronunciationKhyunglung Ngülkhar
EtymologyGaruda - valley - silver - castle, "The Silver Castle of Garuda Valley"
Source of InformationBellezza, 2005
Spatial Location30º 04. 0" N. lat. / 80º 32.2" E. long. (this is the location of khyung lung, not specifically khyung lung dngul mkhar)
CountyTsamda (rtsa mda')
Cultural locationWest Tibet, Zhang Zhung
Location's languageTibetan

At one time, Khyunglung Ngülkhar was likely an impressive palace, mythologized as being founded on gold, walled in silver, with its pinnacle reaching up through the "thirteen levels of the sky" (Ramble 1999, p. 10). It was the residence of all forms of deities, who functionally cohabitated with earthly beings, the capital of the Zhang Zhung empire, and the stomping grounds of Drenpa Namkha (dran pa nam mkha’), one of Bön's most famous personalities (Karmay et al. 2003, p. 240). Charles Ramble (1995) calls it "something between an architectural wonder and a sacred mountain" (10). It has been variously identified as being south-west of Mt. Kailash (external link:, possibly somewhere in the Khyunglung Township of Tsamda (rtsa mda’) County (Bellezza 2005), and most specifically as "…the land of outer Zhang-zhung, in the midst of g.Yung-drung mu-le, in the enclosure of the snow mountains [possibly Welso (dbal so), the snow mountains that allegedly encircle Ölmo Lungring ('ol mo lung ring, Karmay 1972, p. 17)], in a corner of Ma-pang g.yu-mtsho" (Ramble 1999, p. 9). Today, Khyunglung Ngülkhar has become a religious site, a place of holy pilgrimage, and the "-mkhar" ("castle") of its name can be found only in scattered ruins, as described by Giuseppe Tucci in his 1937 Santi e briganti nel Tibet ignoto, though some claim that the palace became Gugé Shartsé (gu ge shar rtse), and still exists in altered form (external link:, while others talk about the region in broad enough terms that it can include the Guru Gyam (gu ru gyam) monastery of Möntser (mon mtsher), Gardzong (sgar rdzong) (Karmay et al. 2003, p. 240).

In The Treasury of Good Sayings (Karmay 1972) and elsewhere, Khyunglung Ngülkhar is often used as a bearing, for example (p. xxx) when describing the boundaries of Zhang Zhung, "…extending from Khyung-lung dngul-mkhar to Dang-ra khyung rdzong in the East, to gTsang in the South, and to Kashmir in the West." In this case, it is not geographically central as it appears in other sources, though centrality is probably being ascribed in terms of importance, not geography. Another orientation example is in Karmay et al. 2003, pg. 73, describing the reknown of an individual as spreading “…[in Tibet] from Khyung lung dngul mkhar in the west to mTsho sngon in Amdo in the east.” These two together triangulate Khyunglung Ngülkhar fairly well, and engender insights into the culturo-national boundaries of Tibet and Zhang Zhung, with Khyunglung Ngülkhar at opposite extremes of each. It is hard not to imagine that this strategic position played an important role in its rise to prominence.

Though it is hard to know much about Khyunglung Ngülkhar historically, most sources agree that it was the capital of Zhang Zhung, that the kingdom's last king, Likmigya (lig my rgya), was the last to reside in the palace, and that it was destroyed by Trisong Detsen (khri srong lde btsan) in his conquest of Zhang Zhung (one such example is Norbu 1995, p. 220). Over the years, it was further mythologized as the birthplace of Shenrab Miwo (Karmay 1972, p. 19), the dwelling place of powerful deities, and so on. In modern times, it has become a place of great intrigue and religious power, promising to confer supernatural powers or spiritual triumphs upon those who go and meditate there (Ramble 1999, p. 11). It was also the site of the 1936 founding of the monastery of Dongak Drakgyeling (mdo sngags grags rgyas gling, founded by 'jig med nam mkha'i rdo rje, Karmay 1972, p. 19). One source (Martin 2001, p. 268) also suggests that Khyunglung was a language spoken in "Gateway [Zhang Zhung", perhaps a dialect of the Khyung clan from that area.

This indication of Khyunglung Ngülkhar as a "gateway," and its use as a point of reference for either far east or west, can only mean that it was a pivotal, and possibly contentious, borderland between groups of people and likely between politically and/or militarily distinct cultures. Whether there was any meaningful history to the location, aside from its later retroactive mythologizations, is difficult to say, and may never be fully determined.


Bellezza, John Vincent. 2005. "Comprehensive Archaeological Surveys Conducted in Upper Tibet, Site Name: khyung lung yul smad (Khyung Valley Lower Village)." URL: external link:

Karmay, Samten G., ed. 1972. The Treasury of Good Sayings: A Tibetan History of Bon. London: Oxford University Press.

Karmay, Samten G. and Yasuhiko Nagano, eds. 2003. A Survey of Bönpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalayas. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.

Martin, Dan. 2001. Unearthing Bön Treasures. Boston: Brill.

Norbu, Namkai, Adriano Clemente, ed. and trans., and Andrew Lukianowicz, trans. 1995. Drung, Deu, and Bön. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

Ramble, Charles. 1999. "The Politics of Sacred Space in Bön and Tibetan Popular Tradition." In Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture, 1999, edited by Toni Huber, Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, pp. 3-33.