The thirteen arts and crafts known as Zorig Chusum, keeps the Bhutanese arts and architecture alive. There are two Zorig Chusum schools in Bhutan. Students are taught these thirteen arts and crafts which are painting, carpentry, carving, sculpture, casting, black smith, bamboo work, weaving, embroidery, masonry, paper work, leather work and silver and gold smith.
This magnificent architectural masterpiece of Bhutanese architects, the Dzong (fortress) are striking features in every province in Bhutan. Every dzongs are surrounded with myths and legends.
Today almost all the dzongs function as government offices and houses monks. In the olden days Dzongs were places of trade and an area where people would assemble to share in celebration with their fellow man, especially during the annual tshechu (mask dance festival).
The Dzongs are the symbols of unification and identity of Bhutan.
Everywhere in Bhutan Monasteries are common sights. Monasteries are the testimony of the spiritual nature of the kingdom and its people. Monasteries are located at the top of a rocky cliff, at the farthest horizons or on a hilltop.
Each monastery is significant in its own way and they are the centre for the local festivals and community ceremonies. A monastery will have a golden pinnacle on the roof-top and maroon -band painted on the top of its walls. There are many monasteries which houses monks. These monks perform all the religious needs of the community in its locality.
Bhutan is dotted with thousands of chortens also called stupas. The chortens represents the deep faith in Buddhism. Chortens in Bhutan represents the Vajrayana Buddhist art in the form of statues and wall paintings. Many chortens are built even today.
One of the most important chortens in Bhutan is the memorial chorten in the capital city Thimphu. This chorten is built in the memory of the third king of Bhutan.
Chortens are also built in memory of an individual, and other times to commemorate the visit of an enlightened buddhist masters, or to house sacred books and often the relics and bodies of great lamas and saints.
The basic architectural characteristics of most chortens are based on the five symbolic elements. The square or rectangular base symbolizes the earth; the half-spherical dome symbolizes water. Fire is represented by the conical or pyramidal spire. The 13 step-like segments present in many chortens are symbolic of the 13 steps leading to Buddhahood. The crescent moon and the sun on top symbolize air, and a vertical spike symbolizes the sacred light of the Buddha. The life-spirit of the chorten is a carved wooden pole called the sokshing, which is placed inside the chorten.