The tiny Kingdom of Bhutan is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest textiles. Weaving is an integral part of Bhutanese culture and tradition. Thagzo or weaving is one of the thirteen traditional crafts of Bhutan (Zorig Chusum).
You’ll witness the locals don stunning intricate textiles - traditional kira and gho - on a daily basis. Bhutanese textiles are a unique art form with an interesting blend of colour, texture, pattern and composition. Each of the 20 districts and regions in Bhutan has its own special designs of textiles.
Bhutan Textile Museum
The establishment of the Textile Museum in 2001 gave the Bhutanese and visitors from all over the world a chance to enjoy the incredible craft of Bhutan. The Bhutan Textile Museum or the National Textile Museum under the patronage of Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck seeks to promote the rich and remarkably vibrant culture of the Bhutanese. To achieve its noble goals and aspirations, Royal Textile Museum has invested heavily in research and studies in a bid to promote and preserve the precious Bhutanese culture. The museum continues to scoop highly coveted awards and accolades for the quality textile artifacts on display. What’s more, the museum has some of the most friendly and knowledgeable tour guides who ensure that you get to learn about the ancient weaving practices across Bhutan. The museum plays an important role in collecting, documenting, interpreting and preserving Bhutan’s textile heritage.
Did you know that the idea to set up a one-of-a-kind textile museum was first coined by Her Majesty, Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck? The Queen Mother envisioned a space where artists from Denmark and other nations come to showcase different weaving skills and methods. To get the textile museum project rolling, the Queen Mother and the Danish government came together and injected a massive capital of around $160K.
In recent years, the museum has welcomed new private donors and other benevolent well-wishers. For instance, the cultural center receives technical and financial support from the reputed Peabody Essex Museum in the US. Those dollars were well spent on refurbishing the dilapidated textile museum buildings and towards their eventual maintenance. Today, the brand new buildings defining the Bhutanese historical center are a major hit with tourists and scholars who stop by the premises on a daily basis. Another hot attraction feature at this museum is the live weaving studio rooms.
It is quite easy to sift through the tons of different fabrics on display at this world-famous Bhutanese inspired culture pot. The displays at the Royal Textile Museum are labelled as follows:-
The Royal Collection
The Role of textiles in religion
Achievements in textile arts
The weft pattern weaves
Textiles from indigenous fibres
The warp pattern weaves
Many visitors to the enchanting museum are instantly drawn to the Royal Collection section. The Royal Collection is vastly endowed with rare, precious and breathtaking royal artifacts that have remained private until recently. A few of the notable high-profile royal collections on display include the personal bedding of his Holiness Shabrung Dorji Jigme and the first Bhutanese raven uzhams or crowns. Schedule a tour at the National Textile Museum and get a rare opportunity to sample the above-mentioned displays and many other enlightening and interesting Bhutanese artifacts.
The Textile Museum of Bhutan dedicated solely to the textile arts was a monumental contribution to the protection and recognition of the textile arts.
Virtual textile exhibition
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Textile Museum has initiated a virtual exhibition to provide national and international textile enthusiasts to tour the museum. You can view the ‘Thagzo - the Art of Weaving’ and ‘Royal robes - Wangchuck Dynasty’ exhibition virtually for free.
Where is the Textile Museum and the Royal Textile Academy?
The National Textile Museum is located at Thimphu, conveniently close to the town’s handicraft market and near the National Library of Bhutan in Norzin, Lam, Bhutan.
Royal Textile Academy (RTA)
As the recognition of Bhutan’s textile arts has grown, and the collections required a larger venue for study, display and storage. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck recognized the need to expand the Textile Museum. With the aim to preserve and promote the art of weaving, Bhutan instituted the Royal Textile Academy (RTA) in May 2005. The non-profit organisation is under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck. RTAB is dedicated specifically to the textile arts of Bhutan and would be a national repository to collect, document, develop, preserve, exhibit and conduct research which would be appreciated and safeguarded for future generations.
Where to buy high quality textile in Bhutan?
Visit The Craft Gallery in Thimphu for a huge range of high quality textiles. The Craft Gallery was also an initiative of Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck to support local artisans and to preserve Bhutanese crafts.