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Chongye Burial Mounds, Tombs of the Kings at Chongye, or Tibetan Kings’Tombs, represent one of the few historical sites that give any evidence of a pre-Buddhist culture in Tibet. 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 Bon faith. It is thought that the burials were probably officiated by Bon priests and were 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.

Accounts of the location and number of the mounds differ. Erosion of the mounds has also made some of them difficult to accurately identify. It is agreed, however, that there is a group of 10 burial mounds just south of the Chongye-chu.

The most revered of the mounds, and close to the main road, is the Tomb of Songtsen Gampo. It has a small Nyingmapa Temple atop its 13m-high summit. The furthest of the group of mounds, high on the slopes of Mt Mura, is the Tomb of Trisong Detsen. It is about a 1hr climb, but there are superb views of the Chongye Valley.

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. At 1.65 metres (65 inches) 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 to the stone sculptures guarding tombs of the Tang Dynasty which existed at roughly the same time as the Tubo Kingdom.

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