Thursday, November 8, 2012


Most of Bhutan’s art reflects its Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. In many of its works there are various schools of art, but Buddhist themes unite them all.  In Buddhism, there are several divine beings that are revered, and each of them is attributed different colors, shapes, and objects that are associated with them.

Traditional arts have been passed from generation to generation. And certain regions specialize in certain types of arts. When the kingdom was first established, among the first items on the to-do list were the Thirteen Traditional Arts (known as zorig chusum). These are paper making, stonework, blacksmithing, clay arts, painting, bronze casting, wood/slate/stone carving, woodturning, woodworking, weaving, silver/goldsmithing, cane/bamboo work, needlework.

There are also other types of art that you’ll also find in Bhutan. Large-scale sculpture is popular, especially clay sculptures of religious images and figures. Another art form is sword making. Ceremonial swords are commonly given to those who are being commemorated for their outstanding achievements. Boot making is also especially important. It’s not only for ceremonial purposes, but the color signifies different social standings: orange is for ministers, senior governmental officials wear red, and regular people wear white boots. And since archery is the national sport, it’s no surprise that they also specialize in creating specialty bows and arrows. Depending on the season, and the type of sport and target used, different materials and designs may be utilized.  Jewelry making is also a popular art form, especially for women. Gold and silver is used in many pieces, as well as turquoise, coral, agate, and other gem stones.

Literature in Bhutan is almost all related to Buddhist ideologies. Even a lot of its written history is entwined with Buddhist history and its main players. There are actually several genres of literature in Bhutan, even though some seem somewhat similar to each other. Among these are dharma history (teachings of Buddha), religious biographies, historical chronicles, epics (like the ever popular Ling Gesar Gyalpo), folk songs, poetry (both religious and ornate), catalogues (lists of how to build dzongs [traditional style buildings], relics, etc.), and dictionaries.

Up next: Music and Art

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