Zhang Zhung Images from a Lost Kingdom


Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

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The kingdom of Zhang Zhung, with the venerated Mount Kailash as its centre and heart, was an ancient realm which originated more than three thousand years ago, corresponding geographically to the western Tibet of today. Rooted in Bon, the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet, the kingdom was famed in its time, but subsequently its name became virtually unknown even to Tibetans who regarded it as only the surreal setting of myths and legends. However, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu discovered in his decades-long research into Tibetan history that this realm was the true cradle of Tibetan culture. His account, entitled Zhang Zhung: A Brief Introduction, written in 1993, describes this antique civilization and its Bon culture as the root of subsequent Tibetan history.

In the summer of 1988 he organized a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash with a large group of students from all over the world. Nearing the end of that journey, Namkhai Norbu and seven members of the group undertook an expedition to Khyung lung dngul mkhar, the Silver Palace of the Valley of the Garuda, and ancient and important capital of the early kings of Zhang Zhung. That expedition is the object of the photographic essay in this volume which contains 24 colour and 16 black and white pictures, and records, among other natural wonders, spectacular rock formations and crystallized calcium deposits resembling giant iced-over fountains.

The final section of the book, the Origins of Tibetan Culture and Thought, the text of a lecture given by Namkhai Norbu in Barcelona in 1987, offers considerations to keep in mind in this field, such as the importance of objectivity when studying early pre-Tibetan history. This open-mindedness is equally relevant in assessing the nature of the ancient principles of energy and the use of religious rituals as a precious element in medical cures, knowledge, which Namkhai Norbu outlines here, central to the Bon culture of Zhang Zhung, itself the foundation and wellspring of what later became Tibet.

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Dimensions 21 × 15 × 1 cm