The Dawn of Tibet

The Dawn of Tibet : The Ancient Civilization on the Roof of the World

By (author) John Vincent Bellezza , Foreword by Dalai Lama


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This groundbreaking book reveals the existence of an advanced civilization where none was known before, presenting an entirely new perspective on the culture and history of Tibet. Following clues in ancient texts most considered myth, John Vincent Bellezza treks to the highest reaches of the Tibetan plateau in search of an enigmatic ancient people known as Zhang Zhung. Tracing his epic journeys across lands few Westerners have seen, this book is a compelling window into the most inaccessible reaches of Tibet and a civilization that flourished long before Buddhism took root.

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  • Hardback | 362 pages
  • 160.02 x 233.68 x 30.48mm | 612.35g
  • 29 Aug 2014
  • Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  • Lanham, MD
  • English
  • 6 black & white illustrations, 45 black & white halftones
  • 144223461X
  • 9781442234611
  • 728,820

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Author Information

John Vincent Bellezza is senior research fellow at the Tibet Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. An archaeologist and cultural historian focused on the pre-Buddhist heritage of Tibet and the Western Himalaya, he has lived in high Asia for three decades. Bellezza has published widely on archaic ritual traditions in Bon and Old Tibetan literature. Since 1992, he has comprehensively charted the monuments and rock art of the ancient Zhang Zhung and Sumpa proto-states. The first non-Tibetan to have explored both the geographic and ritual sources of each of the four great rivers that emerge from the Mount Tise region, Bellezza has also visited nearly every main island and major headland in the great lakes region of the Changthang.

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Review quote

John Bellezza is one of a vanishing breed of scholars, an independent archaeological explorer whose work is pioneering in the truest sense of the word. His expeditions over the course of decades to the remotest and least-known regions of Tibet have unearthed a precious body of evidence for the interpretation of Tibet before Buddhism, with profound consequences for our understanding of the Tibetan world. -- Stephen Jenkins, Humboldt State University For over two decades John Bellezza has supplied the scientific community with spectacular findings from the historically little-explored world of Upper Tibet. His unique contacts with locals through many years of extensive travels throughout the western and northern plateau have given him access to hundreds of cultural sites, many of them clearly of prehistoric origin. Comparative analysis of these sites has led him to the recognition of an advanced early Metal Age civilization in Upper Tibet going back to c.1000 BCE. Regardless the caution of some researchers concerning the author's suggested shared genealogy of this complex with the entities of the historical Zhang Zhung and Bon, these meticulously recorded discoveries remain outstanding testimonies to Tibet's prehistoric cultural history. This insightful book recapitulates the key points of Bellezza's long survey of this ancient world. Combining extensive references to later, mainly non-Buddhist or Zhang Zhung-related textual sources and ethnographic details of the traditional life of Upper Tibet's nomadic communities, The Dawn of Tibet is a must for anyone interested in the cultures of the Tibetan highlands beyond their Buddhist horizons. -- Guntram Hazod, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna This fascinating read is an effort to bridge the gap between prehistory and history and resurrect the long-lost cultural links between Central Tibet and Upper Tibet. In chronicling this long-lost civilization, Bellezza braves the challenges of inclement weather and rugged terrain and assiduously explores the mountains, lakes, rivers, tombs, citadels, shrines, and temples that define the geography and rituals of the remote highlands of the Tibetan frontier. Notwithstanding the paucity of historical details, Bellezza maps the region by drawing upon oral traditions, decoding religious texts, exploring remote archaeological sites, and narrating/memorializing fantastic folk literatures to reveal the central characteristics of the land and its people. In showing the linkages between the Lamaist traditions of Central Tibet and the Eternal Bon practices of the Tibetan highlands, the author encourages the renegotiation of the roots of Tibetan identity and self-understanding. The true value of this research can be assessed in light of the damages wrought by environmental changes, the policies and neglect by the People's Republic of China, and the unsavory activities of opportunists in the highlands of Tibet. This admirable addition to the field of Tibetology is a plea to preserve the ancient archaeological sites of Upper Tibet before they are lost to posterity. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, researchers, and anyone interested in Tibetan studies. CHOICE

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