Ancient Kingdom of Shang-Shung

About Shang Shung

The name Shang Shung is related to something very ancient and connected with Tibetan history. 

Today many people believe that the source of Tibetan culture was the period when Buddhism was introduced from India to Tibet. That happened in the seventh century A.D., in the period of Songtsen Gampo, and that is not very long ago. But it would be arbitrary and unjustified to believe that before the advent of Buddhism, Tibet had no history or culture of its own. But the real origin of Tibetan culture is very ancient, it is nearly 4000 years old now.

Before the spreading of Buddhism in Tibet there was a very ancient religion called Bon. Bon existed long before there was a Kingdom of Tibet. That is why it is so important to study its history, and it is through the history of Bon that we can learn the history of the kingdom of Shang Shung.

In the history of Tibet it always is explained that there were originally six brothers. These six brothers developed West Tibet, Central Tibet, East Tibet, North Tibet and South Tibet. Among these populations that one of West Tibet—called khyung in more modern Tibetan language and shung in the language of West Tibet—became the most developed one. The reason for that was, that in the pre-Buddhist period there was a teacher in West Tibet, Tonpa Shenrab. who is supposed to be the first teacher of Bon. This teacher was Besides teaching the calculation of astrology, medicine and other teachings he invented the first writing which did not exist before him. This language or writing is called the language of Shang Shung. It is called mar which means "divine", "coming from the sky". It is considered to be a very holy writing, a divine writing.

Shang Shung became a very powerful kingdom. We know of eighteen of its kings, but between the last of these and the first king of Tibet there is a long gap. Actually, we do not know the names of many of the kings of Shang Shung nor do we know anything of what they did, but we do know for certain that Bon was the official religion of the kingdom. So all these periods developed this tradition of Bon spiritual teachings and culture related with the teachings of Tonpa Shenrab.

The entire territory of present-day Tibet belonged to that kingdom, and its capital was located in the area of Mount Kailash. Khyung Lung was the capital of many kings of Shang Shung. What we know of the history of Tibet refers principally to central Tibet. Even contemporary studies tend to focus on this area and neglect to investigate the area where the kingdom of Shang Shung was located. This area is practically unknown and unexplored, and so almost no one knows anything about this kingdom. Interested students could find some information in the books about the Bon tradition.

The kingdom of Shang Shung not only is a historical reality, but it is from there that Tibetan culture originated.

Copyright © Shang Shung Institute 2011