Learn about handicrafts & textiles

The Bhutanese are very keen to protect their national heritage and this is reflected in a number of ways - the wearing of national dress is compulsory, construction rules stipulate that traditional Bhutanese style is preferred in all new building projects and they have a long history of preserving their traditional arts & crafts skills.

A tradition of arts & crafts has existed in Bhutan for centuries as many of these skills were needed to support the Buddhist culture and the creation of dzongs, monasteries and temples. Artistic skills were also needed to paint and decorate not only the interiors of these important buildings, but also the homes (inside and out) of ordinary folk.

Therefore in the 17th century the ‘Thirteen Arts' were officially recognised and have been given state protection ever since. The ‘Thirteen Arts' are: carpentry, masonry, carving, painting, sculpture, casting, blacksmithing, gold & silver work, bamboo work, weaving, embroidery, woodturning & papermaking. In order to preserve this rich artistic heritage various leaders of Bhutan have set up schools and academies to train the next generation of artisans. In present day Thimphu this can best be seen at the School of Traditional Arts which provides training for students in the ‘Thirteen Arts' and also has a shop attached where you can purchase Buddhist masks, thangka paintings and textiles.

Nearby this school the Queen Mother has set up Thimphu's Textile Museum & Royal Textile Academy. The museum houses an impressive collection of weaving and textiles from around the country, and also includes some royal robes from each of the country's five kings and their wives. The academy is a school of excellence founded to preserve and teach indigenous weaving techniques.

For the real textile / weaving enthusiast it is possible to travel to the region around Lhuentse to visit some of the villages where they specialise in textile design and production. The east of the country is renowned for the best textiles and if you are interested in a visit here please let us know.

If you would like to purchase handicrafts and textiles whilst in Bhutan then Thimphu or Paro are your best bet. Thimphu has an excellent weekend market, as well as shops that are attached to the School of Traditional Arts and the Textile Museum. Paro also has a number of shops that sell Bhutanese arts & crafts which your guide will be happy to include in your tours of the town.

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