Arts & Architecture

The most exciting and vital aspects of the Bhutanese tradition and heritage are found in its arts and crafts. Much of Bhutanese spiritual and intellectual life is manifested through its arts. Bhutanese arts are not primarily concerned with abstracts of ‘beauty’ (that may appeal to few), but with interpretation of values and beliefs that are held by vast majority and which embody the eternal stream of life or consciousness. It is a subjective process deeply imbued with strong sense of morality, with many art forms epitomizing the eternal struggle between forces of good and evil.

Bhutanese art & craft, particularly those that are religious in their thematic content follow strict iconographic rules. Merit can be earned only if the prescribed rules are strictly followed. Bhutanese arts have been influenced largely by Tibetan & Indian. Artworks are mainly created for religious purposes since artists were traditionally monks. Nowadays, artists can be anyone who has artistic gift. The main work of art is to gain merit.
Crafts are sold very expensively in Bhutan, especially woven fabrics. Actually they are not made for selling to tourists. Many women, especially in central and eastern Bhutan, weave at home. They do not belong to any particular social group or corporation, but are simple village women who use their spare time to weave clothes for their family and sell what is left over. Most craftsmen, except gold smiths and painters, are peasants who produce craft products, particularly daily articles and fabrics during their free time. The examples of renowned specialties from different regions are the silks from eastern Bhutan, woolen products from Bumthang , Bamboo wares from Khyeng (central Bhutan), Brocade from Lhuntse, wooden crafts from Tashiyangtse (eastern Bhutan), gold & silver work from Thimphu and yak hair goods from northern region of Lingtshi & Laya.

Architecture is also a significant feature of the Bhutanese identity. Dzongs (fortresses), Lhakhangs (temples), Goenpas (monasteries), Chortens (stupas), palaces, bridges and vernacular housing that can be seen across the country side form the diverse but harmonious architectural aspirations of the culture heritage and living tradition of the Bhutanese people. The unmatched combination of engineering skill and aesthetic beauty is reflected in all structures. Traditional shapes, colors and patrons on the walls, doors, windows, places Bhutanese architecture in a class of its own.
Among the diverse architectural expressions of the country, the castle-like dzongs, with their massive stonewalls, large courtyards and beautiful architectural details and galleries, are the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.
Impressive monasteries, set in commanding positions on hilltops or at the confluence of rivers, are the administrative centers of their regions. The dzong represents a unique architectural marvel. Hundreds of wooden planks are joined together without a single nail and no formal architectural plan goes into its construction.
Secular architecture in Bhutan finds its main form in traditional farmhouses. Bhutanese houses have a distinct character from those of other Himalayan countries. Due to steep terrains, they are usually built as scattered houses or in clusters rather than in rows.
Most traditional houses are relatively spacious and take advantage of the sunlight. Family dwellings are often three storied, with room for livestock on the ground floor, storage and sometimes-living quarters on the second floor, while the third floor houses living quarters and a choesham (shrine).

Between the third floor and the roof an open space is usually kept for open-air storage. Boulders over the lath are set to hold down wooden shingles on the roof truss. Windows and doors are normally painted giving the house a very festive appearance. Floral, animal and religious motifs are mainly used as themes for colorful paintings. The typical construction materials use in traditional Bhutanese houses is timber, stone, clay and bricks.