An essential part of Bhutan’s cultural heritage are the Zorig Chusum (thirteen traditional arts and crafts) that have been practiced from time immemorial. These arts were formally categorized during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan. The thirteen arts and crafts are categorized as follows:
SHING-ZO (Carpentry): activities ranging from building dzongs (forte – monasteries) and temples, houses and palaces, to making tools and other practical instruments used in everyday life of the Bhutanese people.
DO-ZO (Masonry): Building of chortens, dzongs and temples as well as making the heavy millstones and stone pestles.
PAR-ZO (Carving): Highly skilled at wood, stone and slate carving, like slate carving depicting the Buddha and other religious figure inserted in stupas, to wooden printing blocks used for printing sacred texts.
LHA-ZO (Paintings): Encompasses drawing and painting in Bhutan such as Thangkas (religious pictures), murals and frescoes in temples and dzongs, as well as the colourful images on the exterior walls of Bhutanese homes.
JIN-ZO (Sculpture): Excel in creating of delicate clay sculptures, occasionally set in amazing landscapes, ranging from small to large scale status with mud or clay built up to form the image.
LUG-ZO (Casting): Usually in bronze, refers to the production of musical instruments, statues, tools and kitchen utensils, as well as slip casting for pottery and jewellery.
GAR-ZO (Blacksmithing): These craftsmen produce axes, plough blades, chains, knives and swords and other practical items.
TROE-KO (Gold & Silver-smithing): Includes ornaments made from gold, silver and copper. They are often cut out, beaten, drawn or engraved.
TSHA-ZO (Bamboo Products): Products are bangchung (covered bowls with intricate designs, used to carry food) long palang (used to store beer or other liquor), the tshesip (box), belo (small hat owrn for sun protection), redi (mat), luchu (used to store grain), balep (bamboo thatch) and, of course, the bow and arrow.
THAG-ZO (Weaving): The whole process of preparation of the yarn, dyeing, the numerous designs of Gho and Kira.
TSHEM-ZO (Tailoring): Which are sewn and embroidered (ranging from clothing to intricate and rare embroidered thangkhas, thondrols, tshechu festivals worns).
SHAG-ZO (Wood Turning): Range of delicate woden bowls, turned with expertise from special parts of a tree or roots, dapa (serving dishes), wooden plates, buckets, ladles and phob (small cups).
DE-ZO (Paper Making): Art of making paper from the daphne plant, and more recently bamboo and rice stalks, is under threat from the loss of skilled crsftsmen. The word de refers to the dephne plant.