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The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom

History: Built from 1903.
Distance from Lhasa: 700 Km / 2 days Drive 
Entrance fee: -
Open Hours: 09:00-17:00

* Best visiting time: June to October

The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom
The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom
The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom
The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom
The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom
The Ruins of the Ancient Guge Kingdom
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The ruins of the Guge Kingdom are located on a 300-meter-high hill with over 300 caves and destroyed earth buildings in Zhada County of Ngari Prefecture. The great kingdom with 1,000 years history came into existence against nature in a desolate plateau 4,000 meters above sea level nowadays.

The ruins of the Guge Kingdom are located in Zhabran Village, which is 18 km west of the county town of Zhada, Ngari Prefecture, west Tibet. Descendants of the Tubo Kingdom founded the Guge Kingdom in the tenth century AD, who fled from Lhasa after the collapse of the Tupo Kingdom and developed Guge civilization, a fusion of the eastern and western culture. The great kingdom with 700 years history came into existence against nature in a desolate plateau 4,000 meters above sea level nowadays. The kingdom played an important role in the second renascence in Tibet and survived for about 700 years before disappearing mysteriously in the 17th century. What are left here are the ruins of the capital of the Guge Kingdom.

As an important part of the Tibetan civilization, the ruins were designated in 1961 in the county's first group of key cultural relics under national protection. Large-scale of archeological work began in 1985 when the Tibetan Cultural Committee organized a team to investigate the place. In the following years of the excavation, a lot of sculpture works and mural paintings were unearthed. Houses, cave dwellings, monasteries and stupas were found on the mountain where the ruins are situated. Their field work showed that there are a total of 1,416 surviving pieces of architecture, including 879 caves, 445 houses, 58 blockhouses, 28 pagodas, and four tunnels, which lead in all directions inside the architectural group.

There are 300-plus caves and crude huts at the foot of the ruins. On the hillside are temples and monks' dormitories with Buddhist sculptures and color frescoes inside.

Most of the sculptures are gold or silver Buddhist statues, among which the best one is a statue called Guge Silver Eye (Yinyan in Chinese).The murals are preserved in good condition, although they are hundreds of years old. The themes of the murals include every aspects of the social life of that time. A chapel on the summit of the mountain houses a mural depicting male and female Buddhas bringing the Tantric cultivation (civilization) together, while the lower part displays purgatory with naked, enchanting Dakins flanking each side. The artistic and aesthetic value of Guge murals is deemed comparable with that of Mogao Caves (located in Gansu Province, China).Guge abounded with gold and silver. Sutras written with liquid gold or silver have been excavated in Tholing Monastery and in the villages of Zhabran, Piyang and Donggar. The sutra was written on a kind of dark blue paper, with the lines written alternately in liquid gold and liquid silver.

Travel Tips:
  • Admission Fee: RMB 200 (USD 29) per person
  • Guge Kingdom ruins are 18 km from the county town of Zhada. It is convenient to hire a vehicle to go there. Tourists who take buses should get off at Zhabran Village, which is south of the county town. They should walk for several kilometers before reaching the place.
  • Tourists should pay road toll when entering the Zhabran Village and take flashlights along because it is very dark in the halls of the ruins.
  • It is possible to find hotels in the county town of Zhada. The restaurants mainly sell Sichuan food. Because the town is near to Shiquanhe River, fresh vegetables are available here, and they are not so expensive.
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