Zhemgang Dzong was founded by Lama Zhang Dorje Drakpa in the 12th century. Zhemgang Dzong stands on top of a ridge that rises sharply from Mangde Chhu, facing the village of Trong and Zhemgang town. Lama Zhang Dorje Drakpa, a renowned scholar-sage of Drukpa Kagyu school of Buddhism, originated from Tibet and travelled to present Zhemgang in 1163. Lama Zhang set up a hermitage on the present site of the Zhemgang Dzong and settled there for many years. In 1655 CE, a single storey dzong was built on the hermitage to defend against invaders led by Choestse Penlop.
Located in the central part of Bhutan, Zhemgang was previously called as ‘Shemgang’ and currently as ‘Kheng’ by the locals. Khenrig Namsung is the ancient name of Zhemgang. It literally means the three divisions of Kheng: Upper (Chikhor), Middle (Namkor), and Lower (Tamachok) Kheng. The dzong was built to symbolise the unification of the three Kheng divisions.
Zhemgang Dzong is dedicated to Lam Zhang. This spiritual establishment has six Lhakhangs: Goenkhang, Lamai goenkhang, Naib Lhakhang, Guru Lhankhang, Mithrub Lhakhang and Kuenrey Lhakhang. Among these six Lhakhangs, Goenkhang is considered as the most sacred one, said to be built by Lam Zhang himself.
The Naib Lhakhang is dedicated to the dzong’s deity, Dorji Rabten, who was brought the area under control and appointed to safeguard the dzong by Lam Zhang.
It is said that a powerful Khaling overlord called Lango (a mythical creature who was half human and half bull) plotted against and killed Lam Zhang, the founder of the monastery. Lam Zhang was killed in the Trong village, which is believed to be cursed to this day because of the assassination. The oldest religious structure in Zhemgang is a gold plated six-inch image of Lam Zhang in the Goenkhang that somehow managed to escape two fire incidents that destroyed the dzong and the authentic chronicles and manuscripts that had been preserved in the dzong.
Besides Zhemgang Dzong, you can visit the local villages nearby and admire the beautiful views of Zhemgang. The district is rich in biodiversity.
In 1963, when Zhemgang created a separate district, the dzong was renovated under the command of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and renamed as Dechen Yangtse or Druk Dechen Yangtse Dzong. In the mid-1980s, the district administration headquarters was separated from the old dzong and shifted to a separate two-storey building.
The annual Zhemgang Tshechu was introduced after the inception of the Rabdey in 1966. It is held for five days, from the 7th to 11th of the 2nd Bhutanese month.