Trashiyangtse Dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan with a history dating back to the 9th century. It was previously known as Dongdi Dzong. Gonkar Gyal, grandson of Lhasey Tshangma, who had established himself in Tshenkharla, built Dongdi Dzong. He was invited by the people of the region in Trashiyangtse, known as Donglum, to be their leader. However, Dongdi Dzong was abandoned and fell into ruins during the Tibetans attack.
In the 15th century, the famous treasure revealer, terton, Pema Lingpa chanced upon the ruins during one of his visits and decided to rebuild it, renaming it Trashiyangtse Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Auspicious Fortune’.
In the 17th century, when the Trongsa Penlop (governor), Chogyal Minjur Tempa launched an eastern military campaign to bring the six eastern regions under Drukpa rule, the ruler of Trashiyangtse, King Jigdra, submitted to the Penlop’s request. In 1648, Minjur Tempa further renovated as well as extended the dzong.
Legend of Chuchizhey
The central tower’s main relic is a statue of Chuchizey (Avalokiteshvara), statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Guru Padmasambhava, Lord Buddha and other deities.
This legend tells the story of how Chuchizhey (Avaloketeshvara or eleven-faced God of Compassion) came to be in the dzong. In the past, an old lady by the name of Shali Teng lived a few kilometers north of the dzong. She left her home every day to collect firewood. One day, she heard whispers coming from nearby a cypress tree. She ignored the sound, thinking some men were teasing her. On her way back, she heard the same noise. On closer looks, she found the statues of Chuchizhey, Jampelyang (Manjushiri) and a stupa. She asked herself, “Who has left them here?” The Chuchizhey replied, “No one brought us here, we flew from Lhasa, Tibet.”
The lady brought the statue home and she began to become richer day by day. Suspicious of her growing wealth, a local landlord peeped through her window and saw the statues and stupa. He snatched the statues and the lady reported the matter to the King. The King ordered the statues and stupa to be brought to Trashiyangtse Dzong. The statues have since remained in Trashiyangtse Dzong.
Since then, a few incidents surrounding the statues have increased locals’ beliefs. As the fame of the statue spread, a Bumthang chieftain came and grabbed the statues to be brought to his hometown. Upon arrival, the weather turned bad, the chieftain fell sick and items on the altar always appeared thrown around. The chieftain consulted the Zhabdrung who said that something new has been brought and kept on the altar. The chieftain immediately returned the statues.
In another incident, the statue went missing when an earthquake almost collapsed the entire dzong. The locals found the statues in a cave and the statue spoke: ‘I’m fine here in the cave.” The dzong also has a Dam Lung (subduing boulder), which can be seen on the wall at the main entrance of the dzong. Oral accounts state that a demon in Dongdi Chu was harming people. Terton Pema Lingpa threw a boulder at the demon and subdued it. Further in the village of Pemaling, one can still see the walls of the hermitage where Pema Lingpa meditated.
Trashiyangtse Dzong was renovated and sanctified with the sacred Rabney (consecration) ceremony in 2005 by His Holiness the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choeda. Dongdi Tshechu is performed every year on the 15th and 16th days of the 8th month of the Bhutanese calendar.