Cultural Tour

It must be understood that the very idea of art in Bhutan is not interpreted as creative or innovative as it is in the West. All Bhutanese art and craftworks are religious, anonymous (paintings, for example, do not carry signatures of the artists) and conform to traditional style. Artifacts therefore possess no intrinsic aesthetic function and are instead seen as tangible expressions of religious faith.

Like most things Bhutanese, indigenous art and craft has existed virtually unchanged in form and method since ancient times, living testimony to the pervasiveness of the country's traditional Buddhist culture. Artifacts, paintings and structures from two hundred years ago and today are almost indistinguishable. Another striking feature of Bhutanese artifactsis that theyare not made specifically for the tourist market but are widely used by Bhutanese in daily life and more direct religious practice.

The area of Bhutanese art is so little studied abroad that phonetic conventions for rendering Bhutanese art terminology have not yet solidified. Even the visitor familiar with arts of the Himalayan region may strain to discern the fine differences between Buddhist-inspired artifacts of Bhutan from those from Tibet and Nepal, except to note that the vegetable dyes used in Bhutanese painting are more subdued and earthy. The Bhutanese artisan, of course, will have a lot more to point out.

This Buddhist art heritage can be encapsulated in 13 forms which are collectively called the ZorigChusum (the 13 Traditional Arts and Crafts). Specifically, these aredezo (paper making), dozo (masonry),garzo (blacksmithing), jinzo (sculpture), kozo (leather work), lhazo (painting), lugzo (casting), parzo(carving), serzongulzo(gold and silver smithing), shingzo (carpentry), thagzo (weaving), tsaazo (bamboo work) and tshemzo (embroidery).

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