6 JULY – 6PM – LIGHT OF KAILASH LECTURE #5: The Fabled Kingdom of Zhang Zhung with Dr. John Vincent Bellezza
The fabled Kingdom of Zhang Zhung with Dr. John Vincent Bellezza
Over a period of three decades, I carried out extensive fieldwork in Upper Tibet, the highest and driest portion of the Tibetan Plateau. This vast upland territory is now home to small groups of herders and farmers ekeing out a livlihood in one of the most austere environments on Earth. However, before the coming of Buddhism to Tibet Upper Tibet Upper Tibet was home to one of Eurasia’s greatest Iron Age civilizations. The earliest Tibetan historical records (8th to 10th century CE) refer to a kingdom called Zhang Zhung in Upper Tibet, which was defeated in the 640s by the king of Central Tibet, Songtsen Gampo. Whether known as Zhang Zhung or by another name, a vast network of archaic fortresses, palaces, necropolises, and rock art in Upper Tibet confirms that it was indeed one pf Tibet’s premier centres of civilization, beginning in the first millennium BCE and continuing until the advent of the Tibetan empire in the 7th century CE. Many of the 800 ancient monumental and rock art sites I have surveyed are located near sacred mountains and lakes, the stunningly beautiful residences of local territorial and ancestral deities. Together with textual and ethnographic findings, these sites shed light on the origins of a previously unknown civilization in the heart of Eurasia.
About the speaker
John Vincent Bellezza PhD
John Vincent Bellezza is an archaeologist and cultural historian focused on the pre-Buddhist heritage of Tibet and the Western Himalaya. He obtained his PhD in anthropology from the University of Kent. Dr. Bellezza has lived in high Asia for three decades. Since 1992, he has comprehensively charted the monuments and rock art of the ancient Zhang Zhung and Sumpa proto-states, revealing the surprising level of cultural sophistication attained on the uppermost reaches of the Tibetan plateau more than 2000 years ago. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, Bellezza has published fourteen books with major academic presses.