Arts and Crafts

In Bhutan, art includes 13 traditional arts and crafts known as Zorig Chusum.

Zorig Chusum: the thirteen traditional crafts of Bhutan

Though the thirteen traditional arts and crafts were practiced right from the immemorial times, it is commonly understood that it was formally categorized during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan. The thirteen arts and crafts are categorized as follows:

  1. 1.     Shing zo

Bhutanese still practice this ancient art termed shingzo. Large temples were built simply using timber and without any metal fasteners. Instead, they were joined together using notches with thick pegs and nails made of wood, and these wooden structures were designed to last for centuries. The Dzongs that have its origin in the 17th century features some of the most elaborate wood works and designs that draw appreciation not only from the Bhutanese populace but from outside visitors as well.

  1. 2.     Do zo

Do zo as it is widely known is an old craft that is still being practiced today by the Bhutanese. Classic examples of stone work are those of Chorten Kora in Tashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan and Chendebji chorten in central Bhutan.

  1. 3.     Par zo (Carving)

Par zo or carving is another traditional art that has been perfected by the Bhutanese. The major carvings are carried out on stone, wood and slate. The traditional designs crafted on these materials create some distinctive art works.

  1. 4.     Lha zo

Bhutanese paintings represent the quintessential of the Bhutanese art and craft tradition. An old art that has been practiced since antiquity, painting captures the imagery of the Bhutanese landscape. The work of master painters are reflected in every architectural piece be it the massive Dzongs, the temples and the monasteries, the nunneries and the stupas or a modest Bhutanese home. Indeed, paintings and the varied colors and hues epitomize the Bhutanese art and craft.

  1. 5.     Jim zo

Jim zo or clay work is an ancient craft having been practiced and passed on over the centuries. Statues of deities, gods and goddesses and other prominent religious figures in fact exemplify clay work in Bhutan. Every monastery, temple and the Dzongs have in them installed clay statues from where pilgrims and devout Buddhists draw their inspiration from.

  1. 6.     Lug zo

Bronze casting in Bhutan was introduced only in the 17th century and was mainly spread through the visiting Newari artisans that came from Nepal. The Newars of Nepal were invited to cast bronze statues and religious items such as bells and water offering bowls. It was through these artisans that the art was introduced and today, a lot of Bhutanese people are into bronze casting.

  1. 7.     Shag zo

The art of wood turning is known as Shag Zo and is traditionally practiced by the people in eastern Bhutan. As a vibrant art, the master craftsmen are known as Shag Zopa. They are famed for wooden bowls and cups traditionally known as dapas and phobs. These wooden bowls made of special wooden knots known as Zaa are highly priced and till the advent of steel and brass plates were once used as plates by the Bhutanese people at large.

  1. 8.     Gar zo

Black smithy in Bhutan began sometime in the late 14th century and it is believed that it was introduced by a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. In Bhutan, he is supposed to have built about eight suspension bridges and one can still come across a bridge over Paro Chu linking the highway to the famous Tachog lhakhang in Paro. One can also come across the remains of these once highly used iron chains in Trashigang and at the National Museum in Paro.

  1. 9.     Troe ko

Ornaments are widely used by the Bhutanese women and the tradition of making ornaments is still vibrant in Bhutan. Using precious stones such as corals and turquoise, silver and gold, master craftsmen shape out ornaments such as necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings worn on fingers, brooches, amulets to contain ritual objects, traditional containers to carry the much chewed beetle nuts, ritual objects and many more.

10. Tsha zo

Most of the forests in Bhutan are richly stocked with bamboos and canes of various species. Taking advantage of the abundant natural resources, people have mastered their skills in weaving cane and bamboo products. Widely known as Tshar Zo, this art is spread throughout the country products such as baskets, winnowers, mats, containers known as Palangs and bangchungs are all made of bamboo.

11. De zo

Paper-making is another art that has found roots in Bhutan. Traditional papers were widely used in the past and most of the religious scriptures and texts were written on Dezho’s using traditional Bhutanese ink and at times in gold. While the presence of readily available modern paper has overtaken the market, yet people still produce Deshos which is used as carrying bags, wrappers for gifts and even used as envelopes.

12. Tshem zo

Tzhem zo or the art of tailoring is a popular art amongst the Bhutanese. This art can be broadly classified as Tshem drup or the art of embroidery, lhem drup or the art of appliqué and Tsho lham or the art of traditional Bhutanese boots. The art of embroidery and appliqué are normally practiced by the monks. Using this art they produce large religious scrolls known as Thangkas that depicts Gods and Goddesses, deities and saints. Traditional boots are normally the work of Bhutanese lay men.

13. Thag zo

An integral part of the Bhutanese life is the textile. As such the art of weaving is widely practiced in Bhutan. However, women of eastern Bhutan are skilled in weaving and some of the highly priced textiles are all woven by them. Textiles are woven of cotton, raw cotton and silk and intricate motifs are woven into the cloth.

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