The arts and crafts of Bhutan are a significant part of its rich and vibrant cultural heritage. The people of Bhutan are skilled in many aspects ranging from weaving textiles to making ornaments, and from casting iron for making bridges to weaving from the nettle fibres. Practiced since time immemorial, these arts & crafts of Bhutan were categorized under thirteen divisions during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan, and are collectively referred to as “Zorig Chusum”.
Thag-Zo or the Art of Weaving Textiles
The first craft that plays an integral part of the Bhutanese culture is Thag-Zo or the art of weaving textiles. Women from the eastern part of Bhutan are highly skilled in this craft and produce some of the most intricately woven silk and cotton textiles with varied complicated designs. Textile woven out of yak hair, sheep wool and nettle fibre is also common across the country and make for some highly prized possession for the tourists.
Tshem-Zo or the Art of Embroidery and Applique
Tshem-Zo, the art of embroidery and applique is another traditional craft of Bhutan that has been part of the kingdom’s ancient culture. It is usually practiced by the monks in creating religious scrolls and thangkas depicting Buddhist deities. A branch of Tshem-Zo also deals with traditional boot making, tailoring & sewing works.
Yig-Zo or the Art of Calligraphy
Yig-Zo or the art of calligraphy, is yet another beautiful craft of Bhutan that deals with spirituality. It dates back to the time of Guru Padmasambhava and was used in writing scriptures in gold and silver inks. Some of the finest calligraphic scriptures of the bygone times are still preserved as national treasures in the National Library of Bhutan.
Shing-Zo or Skill of Carpentry
Travelling to Bhutan, one would notice an amazing work of wood and carpentry at every nook and corner. This art, called Shing-Zo, is the backbone of the country. A lot of care goes into each construction, be it of Dzong, Monastery, Temple, Palace, or even a simple home. The master carpenters called the Zow Chen, excel in creating true masterpieces with their extraordinary skills. A beautiful example of this ancient art is the famous Punakha Dzong.
Par-Zo or the Art of Carving Intricate Designs
A structure completed by carpenters is further beautified with the work of Par-Zo, the art of carving intricate designs into doors, walls and windows.
Jim-Zo or the Art of Clay Sculpting
The art of clay sculpting and pottery, known as Jim-Zo, is one more significant craft in the land of the thunder dragon. Intricately moulded clay statues of deities, gods and goddesses found across the country in monasteries and lhakhangs, exemplify this splendid ancient art.
Tshar-Zo or the Art of Weaving Bamboo and Cane Products
Forests in Bhutan are a treasure trove of bamboo and cane of several kinds. Taking advantage of these copious natural resources, people here have mastered the skill of weaving bamboo and cane products. Widely famed as Tshar-Zo, the craft is used to make several domestic items including plates, baskets, mats, sieves and winnowers.
Other Arts & Crafts in Bhutan
Masonry or Do-Zo, Blacksmithing or Gar-Zo, Gold & Silversmithing or Troe-Ko, and Metal Casting or Lug-Zo are few additional crafts that the Bhutanese people are skilled at. Each one of these arts and crafts lhas great cultural and historic value, and Bhutan continues to preserve them with great devotion and respect.