Captivating Buddhist Art of Himalayan Nation Bhutan

Captivating Buddhist Art of Himalayan Nation Bhutan


Bhutan, as small as a county it is land-wise, is a vast country artistically speaking. With its thirteen Vajrayana Buddhist traditional arts, art in Bhutan is worth delving into because this beautiful art was created hundreds of years back in the past based on these spiritual practices.


An example of art being integral to Bhutan’s cultural identity is during the time when monks perform daily rituals. They create sand mandalas which are used to assist in meditation, which represent deities that are spiritual role models for Buddhists.


Context Behind This Art


The Drukpa Lineage and the Nyingma are the two primary Buddhist lineages in Bhutan. The former is a Kagyu school branch notable for paintings depicting Buddhist teachers' lineages and the 70 Je Khenpo (leaders of the Bhutanese monastic establishment). The Nyingma school is famous for its representations of Padmasambhava, the man who is credited with spreading Buddhism to Bhutan in the 7th century.


Padmasambhava, according to tradition, buried precious riches for future Buddhist teachers to uncover, particularly Pema Lingpa. Tertöns are frequently seen in Nyingma art. Special forms, colors,and/or distinguishing artifacts are ascribed to each heavenly entity, such as the lotus, conch-shell, thunderbolt, and begging bowl. All sacred icons are handcrafted to exacting standards that have remained almost unaltered over the centuries.


Bhutanese art is often embellished with bronzes of various kinds, which are generally known as Kham-so (made in Kham), despite the fact that they are created in Bhutan, because the technology for creating them was originally introduced from that region of Tibet.


In these areas, wall paintings and sculptures are based on the main timeless principles of Buddhist art forms. Despite the heavily embroidered robes and sparkling jewels with which these figures are richly adorned, their Tibetan roots are present, clearly playing a role in the art’s beauty. Bhutanese artists appeared to have more freedom of movement when modeling images of demons than when modeling images of heavenly creatures in the horrific realm of devils.


Zorig Chosum


Zorig Chosum is a very important term in Bhutanese arts. Zorig Chosum is the thirteen traditional styles of arts in Bhutan which are the backbones of the spirit of the country. This is so sacred to the point where the government of the country even made “The Institute of Zorig Chosum” in order to protect and grow this powerful force in Bhutanese culture and art made hundreds of years back through generations.


These thirteen arts consist of:


  1. Papermaking - daphne plant and creeper root gum are used to make handcrafted paper.
  2. Stonework arts - this refers to the techniques used to create stone ponds and the exterior walls of dzongs, gompas, stupas, and other structures.
  3. Blacksmithing - it is the process of making iron items like agricultural equipment, knives, swords, and utensils.
  4. Clay arts - this includes the creation of religious sculptures and ceremonial artifacts, as well as pottery and the use of mortar, plaster, and rammed earth in the construction of structures.
  5. Painting - images on thangkas, wall paintings, and sculptures, as well as embellishments on furniture and window frames, are all examples of painting by the Bhutanese.
  6. Bronze Casting - Sand casting and lost-wax casting are used to make bronze roof crests, sculptures, bells, and ceremonial instruments, as well as jewelry and domestic goods.
  7. Carving with wood, stone, and slate - Printing blocks for scriptures, masks, furnishings, altars, and the slate figures that adorn numerous shrines and altars are all made of wood, slate, or stone.
  8. Woodturning - Making bowls, plates, cups, and numerous more containers.
  9. Woodworking - Dzongs and gompas are built with this material.
  10. Weaving - Some of Asia's finest elaborately woven textiles are manufactured there.
  11. Ore Smithing - Making jewelry, ceremonial artifacts, and practical household things out of gold, silver, and copper.
  12. Works with cane and bamboo - Bows and arrows, baskets, drinking containers, utensils, musical instruments, fences, and mats are only few of the objects made.
  13. Needleworks - Making garments, footwear, or the most elaborate appliqué thangkas using needle and thread.

Art In Everyday Life In Bhutan

 Bhutan is really good at protecting its cultural traditions and passing down its arts and culture from generation to generation, this is shown from many mural paintings all over the country in walls and even rocks still being made in the same fashion today! Speaking of fashion, fashion in the country is also quite an artistic feature in the culture of the nation which is indeed traditional. For example, men wear the “Gho” which is a long robe that is pulled up to knee to create a large pouch. These robes have attractive patterns hand made by Bhutanese cotton, and silk.


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