Articles for everyday use are still fashioned today as they were centuries ago. Traditional artisan-ship is handed down from generation to generation. Bhutan’s artisans are skilled workers in metals, wood and slate carving, and clay sculpture. Artifacts made of wood include bowls and dishes, some lined with silver. Elegant yet strong woven bamboo baskets, mats, hats, and quivers find both functional and decorative usage. Handmade paper is prepared from tree bark by a process passed down the ages.
Each region has its specialties: raw silk comes from eastern Bhutan, brocade from Lhuntshi (Kurtoe), woolen goods from Bumthang, bamboo wares from Kheng, woodwork from Tashi Yangtse, gold and silver work from Thimphu, and yak-hair products from the north regions, eastern high region and the regions in the Black Mountain.
Most Bhutanese art objects are produced for use of the Bhutanese themselves. Except for goldsmiths, silversmiths, and painters, artisans are peasants who produce these articles and fabrics in their spare time, with the surplus production being sold. Most products, particularly fabrics, are relatively expensive. In the highest qualities, every step of production is performed by hand, from dyeing hanks of thread or hacking down bamboo in the forest, to weaving or braiding the final product. The time spent in producing handicrafts is considerable and can involve as much as two years for some woven textiles. At the same time, many modern innovations are also used for less expensive items, especially modern dyes, and yarns – Bhutan must be one of the few places where hand-woven can be bought.
Bhutan’s isolation, enforced by its government, has conserved its architectural heritage.
Bhutan’s remarkable indigenous architecture has clear connections with that of Tibet. Traditional building and construction methods are still practiced together with some use of modern materials and styles.
Buddhism is of such fundamental importance that all artistic endeavour has a religious significance and iconography. Every building in Bhutan has in one way or another some religious use or reference and even the most humble residence has space for a temple. New construction is accompanied at each stage by religious ceremonies, and special presentations are made to the mason and carpenter. Religious ceremonies are performed for the prosperity of the inhabitants. Rituals are followed by general festivities.
Village in Bhutan
Bhutanese villages built along the sides of the mountains look over terraced rice fields and fast-flowing rivers, their isolation emphasized by the wild terrain and the absence of vehicles. In autumn, their roofs are covered with red chillis laid out to dry in the sunshine. The typical village contains several residential buildings, a room for a religious occasions.