Judging from the current results of archaeological research, Zhang Zhung Territory originated in Ali region, which is different from the Tubo dynasty that originated in the U-Tsang region, and Zhang Zhung Kingdom existed earlier.
In addition, the original Primitive Bon religion of Zhang Zhung is different from Tibetan Buddhism, and its spread is earlier than that of Tibetan Buddhism. This is a conclusion.
In the existing ancient records, the ancient Zhang Zhung Kingdom once became the political, religious, and cultural center and religious kingdom of the entire Tibetan nationality. Its power and influence spread all over Central Asia, West Asia, South Asia, Siberia, and the Han region of the Central Plains. It used to be an area with frequent cultural exchanges between the East and the West. Even some foreign scholars who study Bon religion believe that the “Shamanism” popular in Siberia of Russia and the Manchu and Hezhe people in northeastern China originated from Bon religion.
However, limited by the scarcity of historical materials and the insufficiency of archaeological research, it is still difficult to know exactly which level the state structure of the Zhang Zhung civilization had developed.
Zhang Zhung Territory and geographical location
Regarding the geographic location of Zhang Zhung, there is no exact historical record or archaeological discovery to determine a region, only a rough location.
According to the historical records of Han and Tibetan
First of all, it must be admitted that the China Central Plains dynasty had a fairly simple understanding of the various political powers in Tibet.
As the first Tibetan regime to have contact with the Central Plains, Zhang Zhung also had relevant records in the historical materials of the Central Plains dynasty.
According to “History of Sui Dynasty” , “The Nv country, in the south of pamir mountains, produces cinnabar, musk, yaks, and horses. In the sixth year of Emperor Wen’s reign in the Sui Dynasty, envoys were sent to Sui dynasty to pay tribute, and contact was lost.
Regarding the location of this Nv country, it was described as “1500 kilometers south to Khotan” in Xinjiang, which happens to be the Ali area on the northern Tibetan plateau. In other words, the scope of this country overlaps with Zhang Zhung kingdom
In addition, the “Fangzhi of Sakyamuni” written by Taoxuan of the Tang Dynasty recorded: “There is Suvarna Qutanluo in the north of Big snow mountain, and it produced gold. The land from east to west was long, that was the Dong Nv Kingdom which was not under the jurisdiction of India. It is also known as Big Yangtong, with Tubo in the east, Sanbohe in the west, and Khotan in the north.”
“Tong Dian·Border Defense Volume VI” written by Du You of Tang Dynasty records: “The Big Yangtong was connected to Tubo in the east, and the Small Yangtong in the west, and neighbouring Khotan in the north. There are more than a thousand miles from east to west, and eighty to ninty thousands of soldiers. The man braided their hair with fur and used animal husbandry as his industry. The ground is windy and snowy, and the ice is thick,the products were quite similar to those of Tubo dynasty. The king was surnamed “Jiang Ge’, and four ministers were in charge of state affairs. During the fifteen years of Zhenguan of Tang Dynasty, envoys were sent to build connection
Tibetan history book “The Origin of Bon Religion” or “legs bshad rin po che’i gter mdzod” records:
“The upper part of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom (that is, the western Xiangxiong) is connected to Kashmir (the eastern part of the former Persian Empire and the former Alexander Empire and the then Arab Empire),
“To the north is the snow mountain of Khotan (now Hotan, Xinjiang) and the Jingxue area (Yushu, Qinghai),”
“To the south was Tianzhu (now the northern part of the South Asian subcontinent) and Nebula (now Nepal). “
The Tibetan History “Tiezhu to Buddhism” adds this statement: “Zhang Zhung and Tubo kingdoms was bounded by Karia of rear Tibet, a large area in northwestern Tibet were under the jurisdiction of the ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom
Note: Yangtong was the name of the Qiang tribe in the Sui and Tang Dynasties. There was a difference between big and small Yangtong. The big Yangtong was in the Ngari area of Tibet; the small Yangtong was in northern Tibet and the source of the Yellow River in Qinghai, bordering the big Yangtong
According to-Historical Documents: An Overview of World Geography （vdzam gling yul bshad）
According to the “General Introduction to World Geography （vdzam gling yul bshad）” written by Bon Schoolar “skal bzang bstan pavi rgyal mtshan”:
The capital of Zhang Zhung kingdom was Khyung lung Dngul mkhar
The westernmost of Zhang Zhung kingdom was the great and small Patola Sahi (Gilgit), which is now Kashmir area
It extends along the Himalayas from Patola Sahi to the southeast, including a small part of the territory of India and Nepal.
It is adjacent to Pamirs Plateau and Khotan to the north, including Qiangtang plateau.
But the east boundary is not clear. If according to Tibetan Buddhist literature, the east is limited to the border with Tubo kingdom and Sum-pa kingdom, then the territory of Zhang Zhung kingdom should not include the area of Mdo-khams.
According to Bon Literature
According to Bon literature, Zhang Zhung Kingdom was composed of three parts, Inner Zhang Zhuang (zhang zhung phug pa), Middle Zhang Zhuang (zhang zhung bar ba) and Outer Zhang Zhuang (zhang zhung sgo ba)
Inner Zhang Zhung (zhang zhung phug pa)
It should be in the areas of Persia (bar zig), Badaxian (bha dag shan) and Bala (bha la) which were three months’ journey away from the west of Kailash Mountain. There was a mountain in the ruins of Rgyal Ba Mnyes Tshal, and the image of Gsang mcbog on the mountain was naturally formed.
Mi lus bsam legs built Rgyal Mkhar Ba Chod here, and the magic was practised in the city that a huge boulder with size of a human body was placed in the air without letting it fall to the ground. Later, a pedestal was built with soil and stones, and supported the huge stone in mid-air. There are 32 large and small tribes living on this land. They were occupied by foreigners at that time.
It seems to refer to the Kashmir area on the border of India and Pakistan and also the area west of it.
Middle Zhang Zhung (zhang zhung bar ba)
This land was once ruled by the 18 kings of Zhang Zhung. And the famous four sages in the history of Bon culture, Bru, Zhu, Spa, Rmevu, were born here. There were also caves used for practicing by the great master Shes Rab Rgyal Mtshan and other sages.
Because this land bordered the “Bod (Tubo)” to the east, so that it was sometimes under the jurisdiction of the “Bod (Tubo)”
Judging from the two suspected “khyung lung dngul mkhar” ruins located in Zanda County and Gar County respectively in Ngari region, the location of Middle Zhang Zhung is approximately on the south side of Kailash Mountain, in the hinterland of t Ngari region
Outer Zhang Zhuang (zhang zhung sgo ba)
The geographical scope of Outer Zhang Zhuang appears to be much more broader, including 39 tribes which they lived in a piece of land centered on the “Khyung Po Ri Stse Drug”, which was the area of Tengchen county of Tibet, also known as “Sum Pa Gyim Shod”. This should be the Zizhu Mountain where the Bon monastery Ritrol Lhakhang is located in eastern Tibet.
There are monasteries such as “khyung po seng chen”, “Spar tshang dgon”, and many caves for meditation.
In Outer Zhang Zhuang, the land was divided into three parts
Upper Zhang Zhuang – Upper Zhang Zhuang was the area that was dominated by “Khyung lung Dngul mkhar”
Use modern geographic concepts to understand
The area encompassed by the Inner, Middle, and Outer Zhang Zhung started from the west of the Kashmir area (Gilgit-Baltistan), and was adjacent to Pamirs Plateau and Khotan to the north, including the entire Qiang-Tang uninhabited area in northern Tibet, and covers the south (now India-controlled) Ladakh region, Kashmir and part of Nepal, and extending eastward to Tengchen, Chamdo, Yushu of Amdo and Kham districts.
The territory of ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom not only covered 1.22 million square kilometers of the current Tibet Autonomous Region, but also much larger than it.
It must be pointed out that the ancient people did not have a clear concept of “national border”, and the territory generally referred to was mostly the description of the “sphere of influence”. The understanding of “sphere of influence” here means “the spread of the Bon religion“
Judging from the current situation, in the history of Central Asia, there had been Islamic religious reforms, and it was almost impossible to preserve the Bon religion.
However, in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai, the spread of the faith of this religion has indeed been preserved.
Therefore, whether the description of the subject’s territory is affected by “sphere of influence” is a question worthy of research.
The territory of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom and the Tubo Dynasty
It should be noted that most of the surprising records about the vast territory of Zhang Zhung come from the literatures of Bon
In the Tibetan Buddhism literature, the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin (Lhasa and Shannan), located in the core area of Tibet, had never been within the scope of Zhang Zhung
This raises a very interesting question that according to Tibetan Buddhism literature, the eastern border of Zhang Zhung was only in Sum-pa kingdom on the north bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River. The eastern Tibetan area (outer Zhang Zhung) was an enclave. So how could it be joined with the Middle Zhang Zhung?
In this regard, some Tibetan scholars believe that “if the saying that the Outer Zhang Zhung kingdom included Mdo-khams could be established, then the geographical location of Zhang Zhung kingdom in ancient times included most of today’s Tibetan areas. There are now still many Bon monasteries in the areas of Amdo and Kham, with many believers, and Bon religion has penetrated into other ethnic groups. For example, the Dongba religion of the Naxi ethnic group in Lijiang of Yunnan province has been influenced by Bon religion.
Although there is no basis for whether the power of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom ever expanded to these places, it is credible that the land of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom originally included most of today’s Tibetan areas.
In other words, the original Zhang Zhung Kingdom included two ethnic groups, “Xiangxiong” and “Bod”. It was only in the era of the 1st Tibetan king Nyatri Tsenpo that the Yarlung tribe rose and gradually broke away from the fragile rule of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom. Together with the rise of the Sum-pa Kingdom, the Zhang Zhung Kingdom was cut off from its eastern territory which is now the areas of Chamdo, Tengchen, Nyingchi, and the eastern Tibet of Amdo and Kham.
Hence, from that time on, Zhang Zhung Kingdom was limited to the areas of Ngari region and Kashmir
Zhang Zhung Kingdom – Another Thinking
Is there such a possibility that the internal management within the scope of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom was not carried out in the form of administrative management similar to the modern state?
It could be connected in some way, in other words, it was embodied in a relatively vague way, such as the same religion,
And to use the religious management system to govern the land, clans, etc, which the religious forces involved in