1 Characteristics 2 Regional differences
2.1 Bhutan 2.2 Tibet
3 Siting of dzongs 4 Construction 5 Modern architecture in the dzong style 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links
Characteristics Distinctive features include:
High inward sloping walls of brick and stone painted white with few or no windows in the lower sections of the wall Use of a surrounding red ochre stripe near the top of the walls, sometimes punctuated by large gold circles. Use of unique style flared roofs atop interior temples. Massive entry doors made of wood and iron Interior courtyards and temples brightly colored in Buddhist-themed art motifs such as the ashtamangala or swastika, for example.
See also: History of Bhutan
Dzongs serve as the religious, military, administrative, and social
centers of their district. They are often the site of an annual tsechu
or religious festival.
The rooms inside the dzong are typically allocated half to
administrative function (such as the office of the penlop or
governor), and half to religious function, primarily the temple and
housing for monks. This division between administrative and religious
functions reflects the idealized duality of power between the
religious and administrative branches of government.
Further information: List of administrative divisions of the Tibet
Trongsa Dzong, the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan.
Bhutanese dzong architecture reached its zenith in the 17th century
under the leadership of Ngawang Namgyal, the 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche.
The Zhabdrung relied on visions and omens to site each of the dzongs.
Modern military strategists would observe that the dzongs are
well-sited with regard to their function as defensive fortresses.
Dzongs were frequently built on a hilltop or mountain spur. If the
dzong is built on the side of a valley wall, a smaller dzong or
watchtower is typically built directly uphill from the main dzong with
the purpose of keeping the slope clear of attackers who might
otherwise shoot downward into the courtyard of the main dzong below
(see image at head of article).
Roof construction at Tongsa dzong.
By tradition, dzongs are constructed without the use of architectural plans. Instead construction proceeds under the direction of a high lama who establishes each dimension by means of spiritual inspiration. In previous times the dzongs were built using corvée labor which was applied as a tax against each household in the district. Under this obligation each family was to provide or hire a decreed number of workers to work for several months at a time (during quiet periods in the agricultural year) in the construction of the dzong. Dzongs comprise heavy masonry curtain walls surrounding one or more courtyards. The main functional spaces are usually arranged in two separate areas: the administrative offices; and the religious functions - including temples and monks' accommodation. This accommodation is arranged along the inside of the outer walls and often as a separate stone tower located centrally within the courtyard, housing the main temple, that can be used as an inner defensible citadel. The main internal structures are again built with stone (or as in domestic architecture by rammed clay blocks), and whitewashed inside and out, with a broad red ochre band at the top on the outside. The larger spaces such as the temple have massive internal timber columns and beams to create galleries around an open central full height area. Smaller structures are of elaborately carved and painted timber construction. The roofs are massively constructed in hardwood and bamboo, highly decorated at the eaves, and are constructed traditionally without the use of nails. They are open at the eaves to provide a ventilated storage area. They were traditionally finished with timber shingles weighted down with stones; but in almost all cases this has now been replaced with corrugated galvanised iron roofing. The roof of Tongsa Dzong, illustrated, is one of the few shingle roofs to survive and was being restored in 2006/7. The courtyards, usually stone-flagged, are generally at a higher level than the outside and approached by massive staircases and narrow defensible entrances with large wooden doors. All doors have thresholds to discourage the entrance of spirits. Temples are usually set at a level above the courtyard with further staircases up to them.
Modern architecture in the dzong style
Larger modern buildings in
To the left is the College of Business, to the right the College of Engineering
UTEP's Academic Services Building
Architectural style Architecture of Bhutan Driglam namzha
^ a b Le Tibet, Marc Moniez, Christian Deweirdt, Monique Masse,
Éditions de l'Adret, Paris, 1999, ISBN 2-907629-46-8
^ Das, Sarat Chandra. (1902). Lhasa and Central Tibet. Reprint (1988):
Mehra Offset Press, Delhi, p. 176.
^ For more details see the
Amundsen, Ingun B (Winter 2001). "On Bhutanese and Tibetan Dzongs"
(PDF). Journal of
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