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Arts & Crafts of Bhutan

Dzongs comprises of traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. It also imposes monastic fortresses that appear throughout the landscape. Within their massive walls we can find items ranging from the most functional ones to those of enormous beauty. The eye catchy paintings and statues represents important religious figure of the country. Most of the intricate illustrations serve as symbols, symbolizing the events of good and evil did.

Bhutanese art and crafts are almost similar as they possess three major interrelated characteristics: Firstly, they are based on religion; secondly, they follow certain style which is uniform and thirdly, they are anonymous. As such, these items do not have any peculiar aesthetic and intrinsic function; instead they are interpretations of the holistic Buddhist religion. The differences between more artistic forms and more practical applications is thus, somewhat unclear. The craft works follow tight traditional conventions rather than their emphasis on innovation. Over the centuries Tibetan designs had significant influence over the Bhutanese style of arts and crafts besides developing its own definite forms and themes.

As the importance of the moon lies in the darkness, the importance of Bhutan’s traditional Buddhist culture lies in its arts and crafts. These items can be seen in both the ancient and modern patterns as well as structures. The most remarkable point of these items is its sense of regularity where there exists only superficial difference between old and modern ones.

To move forward in the field of arts and crafts, the Craftsmen do keep in mind the old-age techniques so that they can perpetuate a rich artistic tradition. In most of the places around the world, the work of arts and crafts are meant superficially for sale to the tourist where as in Bhutan it is widely used for religious purposes by the Bhutanese in their daily life.

When Bhutan is stepping into the age of modern world; like the polar bears are on threat with rise in world’s temperature, many traditional techniques are coming under a zone: the zone of danger: the zone of threat. Specifically when we talk about the items that we use in our daily life, most of these traditional items are being superimposed by the imported foreign stuffs. On top of that, the Bhutanese youth are becoming keenly interested in pursuing different career paths. With the intension of preserving and promoting the nation’s rich artistic traditions, the Government of Bhutan took and is taking various initiatives so that they can render a helping hand in promoting such methods which are one of the precious parts of country’s tradition and heritage.

Traditional handicrafts

In the land of Drukyul, all the series of traditional skills and crafts is basically defined as zorigchusum. (Zo stands for the ability to make, rig means the science or craft, and chusum is thirteen). Zorigchusum refers to those practices that came to picture as a result of its steady development through the centuries, often passed down from generations to generations with its long-standing relations to a particular craft. Even though these skills were existed from our grant grandparents’ time all over the country, Bhutanese believed that the zorigchusum was first formally categorized during the rule of the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye (1680-94). The following guidelines provide a glimpse of the thirteen traditional crafts:

DEZO – Paper art

The traditional Bhutanese paper commonly called as deysho are made mainly from a plant called Daphne and gum from a root of creeper.

DOZO – Masonry

Stone arts are widely used for the construction purposes. It is used in constructing stone pools and the outer walls of Dzongs, monasteries and some other buildings.

GARZO – Blacksmithing

This art stresses on the manufacture of iron goods like swords, farm tools, knives and other utensils.

JINZO – Sculpture

The basic function of this piece of art is to make objects used at the time of performing rituals and religious statues, pottery and is also essential in the construction of buildings using mortar, plaster and rammed earth.

LHAZO – Painting

This is one peculiar type of arts where it deals with the images on religious wall hangings (thangkas), statues and walls paintings and finally, to the decorations on window-frames and furniture.

LUGZO – Casting

Lungzo functions with the Production of bronze statues, ritual instruments and bells, in addition to household items using sand casting and jewelry.

PARZO – Carving

The carving is depicted on stone, wood or slate which is used for making items such as printing blocks for religious texts, masks, furniture, altars, and the slate images containing many shrines and altars.

SHAGZO – Woodturning

This technique of art is applied in making diverse of bowls, plates, cups and other containers. An example can be dapa and za-phob.

SHINGZO – Woodwork

The vital application of this form of art is in the construction of dzongs,temples, houses and some other household goods.

THAGZO – Weaving and dying

The intrinsic pattern of our national dress is the fantastic outcome of this art. It includes all the process of weaving starting from the preparation of yarn, the dying and its final weaving to produce different patterns and designs of various forms.

TROKO – Ornament-making

This is basically dealt with shaping and processing ornaments. Its working requires gold, silver and copper to make jewelry and other essential items used for rituals and household purposes.

TSHAZO – Cane and bamboo working

The production of unbelievable instruments of numerous styles and patterns like baskets, bows and arrows, utensils, drinks containers, traditional fences and mats and some of the musical instruments are the achievements of this art.

TSHEMZO – Embroidery and stitching

Among the different forms of arts Tshemzo works with needle and thread to make and stitch various clothes, boots and thangkas.