The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The cultural heritage | Inheritance in stone | Identity

Architecture and identity

The Shabdrung united various small kingdoms with their own cultural traditions into one, centrally-ruled kingdom. Since it was his conviction that political unity also presupposed a unifying cultural identity, he thought it necessary to create a unique cultural character for Bhutan.


He pursued this aim by developing specific religious ceremonies and rituals, a national costume and, most impressively, an independent architecture. The unifier of the nation created a specific Bhutanese style with his fortresses: the complex construction and artistic arrangements of the wooden bay windows (rapse) and the free standing roof constructions have rendered Bhutanese architecture unique in the Himalayas.

The history of Bhutan
.  Bhutan before ..
.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  .  The life of the ..
.  .  The unification of ..
.  .  The cultural heritage
.  .  .  The ten activities
.  .  .  The 13 traditional ..
.  .  .  Inheritance in stone
.  .  .  .  Identity
.  .  .  .  Power
.  .  .  .  Cosmos
.  .  .  .  Living tradition
.  .  .  The dual system of ..
.  .  .  The national costume
.  .  A dark era
.  The monarchy
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

Top |  Home |  Sitemap |  Search |  Glossary |  The Objects |  Tour |  Help

Model of the Tongsa Dzong, wood, bamboo; L: 540 cm; loan from private ownership
For the exhibition »Fortress of the Gods« a model of the Tongsa Dzong was made in Bhutan to a scale of 1:50. The fortress, built by the Shabdrung in 1647, played an important role in the process of unifying the nation. During the late 19th century the Tongsa Dzong became the family home of the royal family; before becoming king, every crown prince hold the title of »Tongsa Pönlop« (literally: »high teacher«, title of the governor of Tongsa).
Photo by Klaus Vyhnalek