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Art & Architecture

Art & Architecture

The thirteen arts and crafts also known as Zorig Chusum, keeps the Bhutanese arts and architecture alive. The thirteen traditional arts and crafts comprises of painting, carpentry, carving, sculpture, casting, black smithing, bamboo work, weaving, embroidery, masonry, paper work, leather work and silver and gold smithing. There are two schools in Bhutan where these arts and crafts are taught. They are in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan and at Trashiyangtse in east.

The Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts

Bhutanese arts and crafts are deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy. They are not just highly attractive and decorative but also subjective and symbolic. The thirteen art and crafts are together known as Zorig Chusum. Despite a small tourist market, government’s emphasis on the preservation of culture and heritage helped Bhutanese arts and crafts survive.The thirteen traditional arts and crafts are:

1. Shing Zo (Woodwork)

Shingzo or carpentry played an important role in the building of dzongs, temples, monasteries, palaces, bridges and furniture for centuries.The beauty of this unique Bhutanese art is seen in every Bhutanese houses, dzongs and palaces.

2. Dho zo (Stonework)

Dhozo the art of masonry are very noticeable in the Bhutanese temples and fortresses. It is an old craft which is not restricted or confined to one area but found throughout the Kingdom. Most of the Bhutanese houses in rural areas are also made of stones even today.

3. Par zo (Carving)

Parzo or art of carving dates back to the early 13th century. In Bhutan carving is done on various materials ranging from stone, wood and slate. Masks, traditional symbols, bowls and cups, wooden sheaths or scabbards and handles for knives and swords, beautiful carved pillars and beams, printing blocks of wood and altars are excellent examples of woodcarving. Slate carving is another popular art and the finest examples are carvings of images of deities, religious scripts and mantras. The large grinding stone mills turned by water and the smaller ones used by farmers at home, the hollowed-out stones for husking grain, troughs for feeding animals and the images of gods and deities carved onto large rocks and scriptures are examples that survive today.

4. Lha zo (Painting)

Lhazo, the art of thangka painting belongs to the exalted art of the body. Bhutanese landscapes are dominated by virrant paintings. Different colours used for painting are visible in every Bhutanese houses, dzongs and monasteries. Paintings represent the most complete essence of the people’s beliefs and ideas, their feelings and thoughts and aspirations and hopes of our way of life. The most common painting on the walls of monasteries, temples and dzongs are those depicting religious figures. We can also find the paintings of images of Buddhist deities and saints.

5. Jim zo (Sculpting)

Jimzo the art of sculpting in Bhutan can be traced back to the 17th century. Jim dzo is one of the oldest forms of craft in Bhutan. Clay statues, paper mache, clay masks, pots, etc. are examples of jim dzo.

6. Lug zo (casting)

Lugzo or the art of casting includes both wax and sand casting. In the past bronze was commonly used for making containers such as cups, urns, and vases. People also used bronze to make weapons such as battle-axes, helmets, knives, shields, and swords.

7. Shag zo (wood turning)

Shogzo, existed since the eighth century and came into prominence during the time of translation projects of the Buddha’s teachings. It is an ancient tradition that is vibrantly practiced in Bhutan. Bowls, plates, cups and containers from different types of woods are examples of this art. Shogzo is best practiced in Trashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan.

8. Gar zo (blacksmithy)

Garzo, the art of blacksmithing is as old as any of the arts. Bhutan always had its own iron mining resources and blacksmiths have long been producing tools for farming and other iron tools for daily use. Blacksmiths have been producing farming tools and defence weapons including spear or arrow tips, crude axes, knives and swords (patangs).

9. Troe ko (ornament making)

The art of gold and silver works or Trozo remains alive and is practiced around the country. Troe ko (ornament making) The art of ornament making is also widely known in Bhutan. Ornaments are made of stones like turquoise, coral or etched agate (zee) as well as silver and gold.

10. Tsha zo (Bamboo Work)

Tshazo is the art of working with cane and bamboo. Some community of the country is famed for their arts in bamboo and cane crafts. Varieties of crafts are produced by the local people of Zhemgang and Trongsa with bamboo and cane. Bangchung Bhutanese “Tupperware” is one of the most popular craft.

11. De Zo (Paper Making)

De Zo existed since the eighth century and came into prominence during the time of translation projects of the Buddha’s teachings. It was confined for monastic purposes in the past. However today, paper making is of great commercial value. The art of papermaking is popular in Bomdeling and Rigsum Gonpa in Trashi Yangtse. Desho is especially made from the bark of a plant known as Daphne (Deshing) and the paper products today are mainly used for wrapping gifts and writing religious scriptures..

12. Tshem zo (The art of embroidery)

Tshemzo has played a very important role in the making of thangkas and other decorative clothes throughout Bhutanese history. Tailoring of garments is a popular craft. The three main crafts in tailoring are: stitching clothes such as the gho and kira worn by men and women, embroidery (Tshemdrup) and appliqué (Lhemdrup) and the production of traditional Bhutanese Tsho lham, boots.

13. Thagzo or the art of textile

Thagzo or the art of textile is one of the living arts and crafts of Bhutan. Bhutan’s textiles are neither similar to the embroidered silk of China nor plain silk of India but instead are completely different in fabrication, weaving, patterns and colours according to the book.