Arts and Craft

Arts and crafts in Bhutan are very unique and have its deep roots in the Buddhist religion. The development of Bhutan’s artistic heritage dates back to the 15th century when Terton (Treasure revealer) Pema Lingpa, who was an accomplished painter, sculptor and architect introduced arts and crafts. Later, after the arrival of a great saint Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1616 this practice was further strengthened and boosted. Subsequently in 1680, the 4th Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgye opened the school of Zorig Chusum (the thirteen types of Bhutanese arts and crafts) under the strict guidance and instructions from Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

The thirteen forms of traditional arts & crafts known as Zorig Chosum (Zo means “to make”, Rig means “science”, Chosum means “thirteen”) includes: woodwork, stonework, sculpture, carving, painting, black smithy, silver &gold smithy, fabric weaving, embroidery/appliqué, bamboo & cane craft, paper making, masonry and leather work. Due to its deep insignificance in our culture, Bhutan’s government had established a few institutes called NIZC (National Institute of Zorig Chusum) where the young Bhutanese generations are trained and given adequate skills in all of those art forms.


Bhutan is well-known for its textiles all over the world. Most of them are hand-woven from raw cotton and silk. These textiles symbolize a rich and complex storehouse of a unique art form. These art forms are clearly depicted into clothing, crafts, and various kinds of containers. Popular textiles include Bhutan’s national dress (for men, the ‘gho’ and for women, the ‘kira’). They are also renowned for their riches in colour and variation of patterns, and the intricate dyeing and weaving techniques. Gifts of cloth are offered at birth and death, and during auspicious occasions, weddings, and when someone gets promoted to higher level in his/her profession. 

Bhutan has a variety of traditional textiles native to a certain region. Bura textiles are woven in villages of Radhi and Bidung in Trashigang while Adang village produces Adang Rachu, Mathra and Khamar. Some of the textiles like Yathra are woven out of sheep and yaks’ hair.  Popular textiles include Bhutan’s national dress (for men, the ‘gho’ and for women, the ‘kira’).

It is thought that more than half of Bhutan’s population is actively involved in weaving in one way or another. Weavers, mostly women in remote communities, pride themselves on being able to create textiles that reflect a visually stunning combination of colour, texture, pattern and composition. 

Bhutan is holding on to this traditional skill despite rapid modernisation. Due to the consistent practice Bhutanese textiles are now prized among collectors as a rare art-form.


Besides spectacular architecture, the most visible manifestation of Bhutanese art is painting. Thangkas, wall paintings and statues are the three forms of traditional paintings. The Thangka is a local Bhutanese artwork and is considered sacred amongst the locals. The word Thangka means rolled up and they are scroll paintings. 

Traditionally, paints were made from earth, minerals and vegetables, though now chemical colours are also used. The paintings are made with different background colours and usually block printed or embroidered. They are drawn on cloth or silk appliqué. 

A painting is exclusively religious in nature depicting a deity, a religious story, a meditational object or an array of auspicious symbols such as Tashi Tagye (Eight Auspicious Signs and Four Harmonious Friends)

Bhutanese are famous for the quality and the complexity of their clay sculpture. There are a lot of ancient monasteries with majestic Buddha statues, deities and other religious figures. 

Clay sculpture or Jimzo is one of the oldest crafts in Bhutan that has been practiced and passed down over the centuries. Clay is the traditional material for local sculpture, known as Jinzob. The art is depicted in statues and ritual objects and can be seen in the numerous monasteries throughout Bhutan. 

Bamboo Craft
Bamboo is one of the most commonly used raw materials and it also represents the most widespread skill in the traditional cottage industry. The art of working with cane and bamboo is called Thazo. Rural communities in Zhemgang and Trongsa produce a variety of crafts with these materials. They include the distinctive bamboo hat called the belo that is still popular with the people in the area, and the still popular Bhutanese “Tupperware” basket called the bangchung.

The popular folk craft also include baskets of varying sizes for the home and for travel on horseback, and containers for carrying local drinks , the homebrew called arra.

Apart from gold and silver jewellery, Bhutan is famous for Himalaya beads or Dzi Beads. It is believed that these beads were created by Gods to finish evil, and thus, they bring positivity around us. It is distinguished by its black and white spiral designs called “eyes”. There are now many replicas of the ancient Dzi stone available in the market.

Other traditional Bhutanese jewelleries include heavy bracelets, komas or fasteners for the traditional women’s dress, the kira, loop ear rings set with turquoise, and necklaces of the most valued stones in the Himalayan region – antique turquoise, coral beads and the zhi stone.

The best place to see Bhutanese jewellery is during a local festival where women turn up in their finery and jewellery. Some of them are draped with the traditional necklaces of coral, the size of small stones.