Art and Craft not only form an essential part of Bhutan’s culture and heritage, but also are intrinsically linked to religion. They represent the exclusive and unique ‘spirit and identity’ of this beautiful country.
Evolved and adapted by new generations over the ages, Bhutanese art forms have preserved the spiritual values and traditions.
Known as Zorig Chusum, these thirteen art forms are rooted in Buddhism and are believed to have introduced by Buddhist master Pema Lingpe in the 15th century and formally categorized during the reign of the fourth ruler, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in the 17th century.
The National Institute of Zorig Chusum was established in 1971 in Thimphu, with the sole objective of preserving the rich culture and traditions by training the youth. Here, students learn every aspect of portrayal of spiritual values in each craft. The Center is open to the public and they are allowed to observe, interact with the students and learn from them.
The thirteen art forms are as follows:
Thag-zo or the art of weaving, Lha-zo or the art of painting, Jim-zo or the art of sculpting, De-zo or papermaking, Lug-zo or casting, Shing-zo or woodwork art, Do-zo or masonry, Par-zo or art of carving, Shag-zo or wood turning, Gar-zo or blacksmithing, Troe- ko or bamboo work, Tshem-zo or embroidery/needlework and Troe-ko or silversmithing.
Each work of art contains the same principles, symbolism, and ideologies that make this practice ancestral. Each artist leaves a print or mark of his own style which contributes to the uniqueness of this Art form. However, one essential aspect of Bhutanese art is that it is anonymous, because it is believed that ‘Art speaks for itself ‘and that the importance of craft lies in the craft itself and not in those who produce it.
The objects decorate every house, street and place of worship. All paint, woodwork, sculptures and embroideries depict deities, sacred animals and other relevant imagery.
Each of these arts and crafts have great cultural values and Bhutan continues to preserve them with dedication and respect.