Travel Guide

Tombs of Tibetan Kings

The well-known dynasty-Tubo Dynasty in Tibet history emerged from the 7th century to 9th century. The leader of this time is the world-famous king Songtsen Gampo who achieved some great courses including unified Tibet and set Lhasa as the capital, took a series of measures to develop production, created Tibetan languages, made laws and built the Tubo regime of slavery. In order to introduce advanced culture of the Central Plains, he married Princess Wencheng of Tang Dynasty and sent Tibetans to learn there, which greatly pushed the economic and cultural communication between Han nationality and Tibetan nationality. Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo has made a great contribution to promoting social economic and cultural development of Tibetan areas, enhancing mutual friendships between Tibetans and Han people as well as the formation and development of multi-nationalities country of China.

According to some Tibetan historical records, there were 35 generations of Tibetan kings in total during the Tubo Period in Tibetan history and the place that they were buried was known as the Tombs of Tibetan Kings today, which included the tombs of their wives and maybe some ministers as well. The Tombs of Tibetan Kings are located within the territory of Qonggyai County, Shannan Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, a burial group for the 29th Tibetan King to the 40th generation, their ministers and wives also, covering a total area of 385 square meters, among which the tomb of King Songtsen Gampo attracted the most attentions of modern people. It is also the extant largest grave group till now, located in the south shore of Yarlung Zangbo River, southwest of Zongshan where Qonggyai County is situated. In the vicinity, it is in great natural condition involved expansive ground, pleasant weather, fertile land, and beautiful mountains and rivers. That’s the reason why it was the birthplace of ancient Tibetan people a long time ago. Moreover, it is where Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo originally built up his kingdom. Since setting Lhasa as the capital, this place has become the base of Tubo Dynasty, been highly appreciated as a result. In addition to the natural conditions here, King Songtsen Gampo might also have nostalgia towards his homeland, which led to the present tomb location. Since then, a lot of Tibetan kings were buried here. There wasn’t a fixed tell of how many tombs were there. Due to annual soil erosion and sediment accumulation, several tombs situated on hills have been hard to recognize from those hills. But till today, there remained 9 tombs that can be recognized in total, covered a circumference of 3 km. The existing 9 tombs are slightly different, with some of them formed circular shape and flat top in various sizes and irregular arrays.

On the basis of inscription records, Songsten Gampo mausoleum is located at the mouth of Cimpu Gully, square-shape in external form. The epitaph said his mausoleum was divided into nine sections while the Buddha temple lied as main chamber. In the center was placed burning coral lamp and in the four corners stood treasure storage palaces. The inner walls were constructed by square stones while the outer ones were thick soil walls with the door of the tomb towards west. Looked from the outside, the tomb was covered with gravels, coming into being an earth hummock which was about a hundred steps’ wide and more than six Zhang high.

Tibetan legend has it that under this tomb was situated a grand underground palace where preserved the statues of king Songtsen Gampo, Sakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara and a large number of household utensils inlaid with gold, silver and agate, etc. as well as armors and weapons. In the past, there was a shrine in center top of Songtsen Gampo’s grave worshipped the king, his wives together with founder of Tibetan language. However, this original construction had been mutilated because of age but has been repaired the shrine and statues inside, attracted a constant stream of pilgrims coming here to worship and show respects to this great Tibetan king who was active in the development of Tibetan and solidarity of Tibetans and Han ethnics.

In front of the tombs of Tibetan kings, there are two stone steles of Tubo Period. What is next to the tomb of king Songtsen Gampo is said to be the tomb of Sadnalegs where one the two stone tablets was situated nearby. This stele is 83 cm in bottom width and 78 cm in the lower width, engraved flying dragon patterns on both sides. The lower part of it had been covered under quicksand, left only 2.3 meters high on the ground. Local relevant departments once dug it deep to 3 meters but still didn’t found pedestal of the tablet. The tombs of Tibetan kings are not only a reflection of burial system and burial level over a thousand years ago, but also valuable materials for studying the flourishing and decline of Tubo Dynasty.