The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The cultural heritage | The 13 traditional crafts | Bronze-casting

Lugzo: Bronze-casting

Bhutan has a long tradition of bronze-casting. Religious statues were moulded using the lost wax process. The statue is moulded in wax around a clay centre and then a few layers of very fine clay are applied. This mould is slowly heated over a fire to let the wax run out. Metal is then poured into the hollow space between the clay centre and clay case. Soon afterwards the mould can be broken and the statue cooled down in water. Each statue is therefore unique.

Ritual objects are usually produced by sand or frame casting. A model is placed in a wooden frame, which is filled with clay and sand. The surface of the sand is smoothed over and covered with finely ground charcoal. Then more sand is added and compressed. After loosening the wooden frame it is necessary to control whether the imprints of the model are clear in both parts of the mould. If needed, the imprints can further be worked on. The moulds are then hardened by moderate heat over a fire. The figure is filled with fluid clay and the clay model is dried. The surface of the clay model is taken off with a knife. At a few spots, supports remain which ensure that the distance between centre and mould is the same all around. Before the actual casting, the mould is put together, an opening for pouring in is made, and metal is then poured in. After the casting this form must also be destroyed. Finally, the piece can still be engraved or decorated by the master.

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Container for ceremonial offerings (yang tro), bronze; H: 19,5 cm, diameter 17 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
The knob is made in the shape of half a vajra. The central motive at the belly of the container are the eight signs of happiness of Buddhism. Food that is offered in this container is to bring luck.

Phurbu, dagger: handle of brass, blade of iron; container: copper; L: 26 cm; loan from a private collection
The ritual weapon is used in monastic Buddhism to destroy obstructive powers and influences on the way to enlightenment. In other rituals it is used to transfix or symbolically kill demons. Special pieces like this one are marked on the back with a sign of the master who made them.