Arts and Crafts

The Himalayan Mountains are a fragile environment the actions of wind, water, earthquakes and fire have made serious changes in the topography. The intervention of people on this environment has, to date, been without major effect. However, that influence is changing and, unless checked, could be disastrous to the Himalayan states and their neighbours.

The Himalayas posses an unforgettable aura and magnetism, a personality at once diverse and distant but also familiar and friendly; there are high mountain peaks, rushing streams and delicate waterfalls, narrow fertile valleys and mountain slopes carpeted with rich colours of autumn leaves or spring rhododendrons, of tall pine forests, green and glistening in the monsoon rains, or ghostly and reflective in winter.

Tucked away in a small section of this vast mountain is Bhutan; unique, mysterious, independent, with a rich cultural heritage. Because of it's long isolation, Bhutan has been able to preserve its diverse customs and values, its close ties with communities and families, its way of worship, its traditional skills and, above all, a simple and un-complicated way of life. To understand Bhutan, one needs also to understand the nature of the Himalayan Kingdoms and their historical and cultural relationships; how they viewed their neighbours, and how they were seen in return.

To adequately describe Bhutan is to first picture the visible; towering snowscapes, high mountain passes, large fortress-monasteries or dzongs, rows of fluttering prayer flags, powerful racing rivers, colourful festivals, and attractive national costumes. The intangibles within Bhutanese culture form an equally vital part of the fabric that binds the country together: the immense importance of the royal family; the code of conduct and responsibilities [driglam namza]; the physical, mental and verbal guiding principle of 'the science of crafts' [zorigpa]; the option for an individual or group to withdraw from the world and be apart - or the possibility to be at peace with oneself and one's environment and yet still be part's of one's community. A way of life is available for most people where materialism is of minor importance and quality of life is measured by a standard quite foreign to the everyday values that most people in the West live by it; solitude instead of crowded place, introspection instead of busyness, serenity instead of anxiety.

Out of this physical and temporal environment and people's response to living in it, has evolved a series of traditional skills, ancient and sophisticated, colourful and complicated, and in many ways special because they are so unique. These traditional skills or crafts came out to be known as zorig chusum [thirteen traditional crafts] and today represent hundred of years of knowledge and ability that have been passed down from father to son and mother to daughter.