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Tombs of the Tibetan Kings

About Tombs of the Tibetan Kings

Many ancient tombs have been found in Tibet. Most of them date back to the Tubo period or even earlier. For example, the stone coffin tombs in Gonjog County of Qamdo date back to 2,200 years ago and the Tubo tombs on the Lhe Hill in the Nang County of Nyingchi are equally ancient. But the most important, famous and spectacular ones are the Tombs of the Tibetan Kings to the southwest of the Dzong Hill in Qonggyai County of Shannan Prefecture.    

The Tombs of the Tibetan Kings actually include Tsampos, their wives and officials. The groups of tombs varying in size cover a total area of 3 million square meters. Looking from afar, one will catch an amazing view of a dozen giant tombs lining from north to south in the valley. The rammed earth on the tombs has become hills melting into the natural hilly scenery. According to Tibetan documents, there are 21 tombs here, in 1989, the Cultural Relics Administration Committee of Tibet Autonomous Region conducted a joint survey with the Archaeology Institute under the Sichuan University. The experts found 11 tombs.    

The tombs are flat on top and piled with earth and rock. The layers of rammed earth are exposed to daylight, with each layer about 15-20 cm thick. Originally built like cubic, the tombs have become round beaten with centuries of rain and wind. Looking like small hills, it still takes over 40 minutes to climb onto the highest tomb.    

The earliest tomb is said to be that of Zhigung Tsampo. Legends say that the 7 Tsampos before him were gods who came down to earth to accomplish certain missions. They all left the earthly world by climbing onto a rope of light. Thus all the following Tsampos had to stay on earth.    

At the waist of the mountain just below the main peak, there is the highest tomb among all the others. Its rammed earth is piled into a square with each rim measuring 180 meters. The present height of the tomb is 14.7 meters. In front of the tomb are a pair of sitting stone lions. Ar 1.65 meters tall, the lions face the tomb with glaring eyes. The curling hair on their necks is carved exquisitely. The whole sculpture is plump and full of life. The lions were carved from a single rock. The simple decoration and majestic style are obviously related with the stone sculptures guarding tombs of the Tang Dynasty which existed at roughly the same time with the Tubo Kingdom.

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