How did the Guge Kingdom Disappear?

How did the Guge Kingdom Disappear?

The disappearance of Guge Kingdom is considered as one of the top unsolved mysteries of Tibet. How did the Guge Kingdom disappear overnight?

How did a kingdom with a rich and well-developed culture disappear so suddenly and completely just like the ancient Mayan civilization?

In the mid-9th century, the Tubo Kingdom collapsed. The descendants established the Guge Kingdom and created a splendid civilization within 700 years. Later in 1630, Guge was overthrown by Ladakh. According to records, the slaughter and predation of the war was not enough to exterminate the Guge civilization. 

Today, the ruins of the Guge Kingdom left us some amazing architecture, ancient paintings, the mysterious Guge Silver Eye, and so on.

But, what happened to such a strong kingdom?


The Guge Kingdom had a population of 100,000 when it was prosperous. What happened to the people is also a mystery. The number of corpses found in the cave was far less than 100,000.

The desertification of the oasis, other natural disasters or plagues were not enough to explain the sudden disappearance of the whole nation and its civilization. If they migrated to other places, there must be some Guge descendants who know about their history. However, it seems that no one knows about the kingdom and no persuasive evidence leads to an answer.

In the following hundreds of years after its disappearance, nearly no one knew that the Kingdom had ever existed. No destruction has been done to the construction and the streets there. No correction has been done to its characters and religion, even to the mural paintings and the art styles. The scene of the final ruin remains exactly the same as it happened. How did all this happen has remained a mystery.

In the 17th century, missionaries from the west had come to the Guge Kingdom. At that time, the King was at odds with his brother, also the religious (Buddhist) leader of Guge. In order to consolidate his domination, the King tried to weaken the power of Buddhism with the help of the western missionaries. In 1633, the monks staged a rebellion. The King’s brother secretly contacted with the Ladakh Kingdom and asked the Ladakh army to attack the capital of the Guge Kingdom in an attempt to overthrow the King and take his place. Therefore, a cruel war began and it lasted for a long time. 


The Guge Palace built on top of a hill and it had the strongest defense in Tibet at that time.

The only path to the top of the hill was a man-made tunnel. Because there were cliffs on all sides of the hill, it was impossible to attack the palace. Then the people of Guge were forced to build a stone building beside the mountain. What the Ladakh army expected was that when the stone building was as high as the mountaintop, they could certainly reach the palace and defeat the Guge Kingdom.

However, they didn’t finish the stone building, which only reached 10-odd meters high (tourists can see the ruins of the building at the hillside now because it is the only stone building there, surrounded by the earthen buildings). It is said that it was not finished because the King of Guge, who lived at the top at that time, changed his mind. His people were forced to build the stone building day and night. The King heard their miserable singing and became very worried about them. Then he made his final decision.

There are two versions of the king’s decision. One is that the king jumped down the cliff and died and the Guge Kingdom was defeated after his death. The other version is that the King surrendered to save his people. According to the historic records, the second version is more credible. History about the local conflicts in Tibet and records on the activities of the first missionaries said that the last king of Guge Kingdom and his family were taken to the capital of Ladakh and put into prison. But there is no evidence about it.

How the Guge Kingdom disappeared is still an unsolved mystery. If you are interested in uncovering the mystery, go to research the ruins of Guge Kingdom.