Film: “In Search of Zhang zhung”

In Search of Zhang Zhung (see a slide show: Movie or Stills) is an internationally-acclaimed film that tells the story of a pilgrimage by the Bönpo monk and scholar, Geshe Gelek Jinpa, to Western Tibet in search of traces of the vanished land of Zhangzhung.

While research by a number of pioneering scholars has led to a clearer understanding of the Bon religion, wider public knowledge is either nonexistent or subject to deeply-entrenched clichés and prejudices. In Search of Zhang Zhung, was conceived with a view to presenting a more accurate view of Bonpos and their spiritual aspirations.

In this film, which has been televised in numerous countries, it is the Bonpos themselves who are the main narrators. Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet, the companion volume to In Search of Zhang zhung, was also written from the perspective of the Tibetan protagonist.

Following the success of In Search of Zhang Zhung, the Kalpa Group intends to make two further films about the Bon religion. Whereas Zhang Zhung focused on the origins of the religion in Western Tibet, one of the projected documentaries will deal with the recent history and current situation of Bon, primarily in Eastern Tibet. The second film will focus on esoteric meditative and ritual traditions as they continue to flourish in the Bonpo heartlands of Dolpo, Kham and Amdo.


Scholarly studies of Bön have tended to favour the concerns of the “higher” vehicles, while the rich heritage of popular ritual, and the place of secular communities vis-à-vis the religion, have been underrepresented. In an attempt to redress the balance, the Bön Project is supporting the film documentation of a range of protective and curative rituals.

Between the lines: exorcising the old year in a Himalayan Bonpo village is an ethnographic film that received its premiere at the 12th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies in Vancouver in August 2010.

A number of films of key Bönpo rituals, with digital reproductions and English translations of all the texts used, will be made available on a dedicated website.