The cultural tradition of Bhutan is deeply rooted in Buddhism, which is not only a religion in the Dragon Kingdom; it is rather a lifestyle they follow. The inspiration of this religion also reflects from their arts and crafts, which is varied in form, representation and theme. Like their belief in the concepts that Buddhism teaches, their arts and crafts also represent the theme of eternal struggle between good and evil.
There are thirteen types of different sections of arts and crafts, which Bhutan is practicing since the ancient era. They all together are termed as Zorig Chusum. During the reign of fourth temporal ruler, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the arts were categorised formally. If observed well, a rare blend of Indian, Chinese and Tibetan artistic tradition can be seen in the symbolic arts by Bhutanese people.
The mesmerising landscape of Bhutan is excellently represented in their paintings, which are made by using varied colour and hue. All architectural pieces in temples, dzongs, and monasteries contain the works by master painters, called Lha Rips. The natural pigmented soils of different colours are used in these art-forms.
Shingzo or the wood work has a very significant part in Bhutanese construction industry. Its role is pivotal in making of the royal forts or dzongs, houses, palaces, temples, bridges etc. The master carpenters are called as Zo-chen and Zowo, who flawlessly measure, carve and design in the pieces of woods.
The traditional Bhutanese art of carving is known as Parzo. Mainly, three things are used for major carving –wood, stone and slate. There is a huge variety seen in the woodcarvings as Bhutan owns large variety in trees. The wooden masks used in Tsechus and the phalluses of various size are two excellent examples of Bhutanese carving.
This section of Bhutanese art is the ancient craftwork out of clay. It started long before the craft of bronze and other metals were introduced. These clay statues are widely found in each of the temple, monasteries and dzongs, especially in their walls. Usually Bhutanese men perform the art of making model statues, while women look over the pottery section.
It was only during 17th century when bronze casting was introduced in Bhutan. Bronzes are cast in making various types of containers, weapons and armours. It actually spread when King Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal invited Newari artists to cast statues, water offering bowls, bells etc out of bronze.
The art of iron-work is known as Garzo in Bhutan, which started here during the 14th century. On the way from Paro to Thimphu, you can notice this art-form in the bridge over Paro Chu. It is said that it is one of the eight suspension bridges made by Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo, a Tibetan saint and master engineer, who probably introduced this craftwork to Bhutanese people.
The craftworks out of bamboo and cane have been one of the prime art-forms in Bhutan because of never ending supply of bamboo grasses. Baskets, winnowers, bangchungs, mats and containers, known as Palangs etc are made out of this material. People of Bjokaps in Central Bhutan and Kangpara in Eastern Bhutan are master and pioneers of Tsharzo art-form.
Like any other country, Bhutan also has a traditional way of making ornaments using corals, silver, turquoise, gold and other metals, gorgeous stones etc. Tro Ko Lopen, the masters in making beautiful ornaments, implement their artwork in traditional containers, necklaces, bangles, earrings, amulets, rings, brooches etc.
Cotton, silk, raw cotton etc are used in the Bhutanese textiles industry. The art of weaving in the cloth differs on the various locations in this country. Some of the excellent examples of weaving art in Bhutan are Kushithara from Khoma village, Adang Mathra, Adang Rachu and Adang Khamar from Adang village, Mentsi Matha and Aikapur from Rahi and Bidungb etc.
It simply is the art of Bhutanese tailoring and embroidery works. The craftwork is divided in three forms – lhem drup or the art of appliqué Tshem drup or the art of embroidery and Tsho lham or the art of traditional Bhutanese boot making. The earlier two forms are followed usually by monks and Bhutanese lay men make the last ones out of cloth and leather.
The Bhutanese form of masonry which still follows the ancient craft on stone is known as Dozo. Temples, dzongs, monasteries, many houses etc in Bhutan are typically made of stone. Two finest examples of Bhutanese masonry are the Chendebji Chorten in Central Bhutan and the Chorten Kora in Tashiyangtse in Eastern Bhutan.
This artwork is seen in wooden cups and bowls which are traditionally known as dapas and phobs. Shag Zopa are the master craftsmen of this Bhutanese art. This craftwork used to be widely used before the usage of steel and brass started. Khengkhar village in Eastern Bhutan is famous for making Jandup, traditional wooden wine container.
The bark of the Daphne tree is used to make papers in Bhutan in their own traditional way. This craftwork has a deep root in this South Asian nation. Almost all the texts religious scriptures are examples of Dezo and written with traditional ink, sometimes with gold. The masters of this craft are called Dezop.