Chongye Burial Mounds

Tomb in Chongye Valley

The tombs of the Tibetan kings at Chongye represent one of the few historical sites in the country that give any evidence of a pre-Buddhist culture in Tibet. Accounts of the location and number of the heavily eroded mounds differ – the most common consensus is that 21 exist altogether, though only 16 have so far been pinpointed. All said and done, the faint mounds of earth are somewhat underwhelming, but the views back towards Chongye are impressive.

Most of the kings interred here are now firmly associated with the rise of Buddhism on the high plateau, but the methods of their interment point to the Bön faith. It is thought that the burials were probably officiated by Bön priests and accompanied by sacrificial offerings. Archaeological evidence suggests that earth burial, not sky burial, might have been widespread in the time of the Yarlung kings, and may not have been limited to royalty.

The most revered of the 10 burial mounds, and the closest to the main road, is the 130m-long Tomb of Songtsen Gampo. It has a small Nyingmapa temple atop its 13m-high summit, rebuilt in 1985, which is hardly worth the entry fee. The furthest of the group of mounds, high on the slopes of Mt Mura, is the Tomb of Trisong Detsen.