Shang Shung, the name of the Institute, reflects the pre-Buddhist foundations of Tibetan culture and history. The ancient kingdom of Shang Shung once occupied a large area including Western and Northern Tibet with Mount Kailash at its centre. The study of Shang Shung is important if we are to understand the unique nature and the universal importance of Tibetan culture, past and present.
The ancient kingdom of Shang Shung once occupied a large area including Western and Northern Tibet with Mount Kailash at its centre.
The capital city of Shang Shung was called Khyunglung (Khyunglung Ngülkhar or Khyung-lung dngul-mkhar), the "Silver Palace of Garuda" (southwest of Mount Kailash 30º 04. 0" N. lat. / 80º 32.2" E. long).
At one point the Shang Shung civilization consisted of 18 kingdoms in the west and northwest portion of Tibet. Tibetan accounts say that the Tibetan king and the king of Shang Shung had married each other's sisters in a political alliance.
In 1988 Prof. Namkhai Norbu, the founder of the Shang Shung Institute, organized an expedition to Mt. Kailash with some of his students . In that occasion he also visited the ancient cave-city near the modern village of Khyung Lung in Dzamda county. There he identified for the first time the cave-city with the last capital of Shang Shung, Khyung Lung Ngulkar (literally “Silver Castle in the Garuda Valley”). The remains of the three-storey “Palace” of Khyung Lung, probably the King and his family’s residence, are still visible. beneath the Castle there were other constructions of which we have lost traces on surface. More than 200 caves were probably the dwellings of the ministers and king’s dignitaries, later used by Buddhist practitioners for personal retreats and recently frequented by nomads as shelters.
Many of the traditions of Shang Shung have been transmitted across the centuries by both oral and literary means. Knowledge of Tibetan culture, influenced by the Indo-Buddhist tradition which was introduced into Tibet between the 7th and 11th centuries, is traditionally classified into five major fields or sciences: arts and crafts, medicine, linguistics and poetry, logic and "inner knowledge" which refers to the study of Buddhism and meditation. The Shang Shung Institute uses these five fields of knowledge as the basis for its areas of study and activity.
The extraordinary culture of Tibet has been transmitted from generation to generation for more than 3000 years and is one of the great treasures of human civilisation. Today there is a real danger that this unique treasure may be lost. Therefore, the Shang Shung Institute promotes the knowledge of Tibetan culture in all of its aspects; religious, philosophical, artistic, historical and social in order to safeguard it and contribute to its preservation.