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Textile Designs



1. Introduction…………………………………………………………… 3 2. Animal and flower designs …….. (Nos.:

1-15) …………………..


3. Small designs …………………… (Nos:

16-28) ………………...… 9

4. Medium designs ……………….. (Nos:

29-114) ………………….. 14

5. Large designs …………………… (Nos: 115-201) ………………….. 44 6. Border designs ………………….. (Nos: 202-256) ………………….. 117 7. General notes …………………………………………………………. 145 8. Glossary ……………………………………………………………….. 147 9. Further reading ……………………………………………………….. 149 10. About the author ……………………………………………………… 150

Cover design: Pema Domingo-Barker

Please acknowledge source when reproducing or transmitting through electronic media. Larger versions of designs are available on request from: email:

© David K. Barker Bangkok, November 2011


Textile Designs

Introduction The Royal Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan continues to fascinate most imaginations due to its remote and almost mystical aura, a hidden kingdom juxtaposed between Nepal, Sikkim, Chins (Tibet), West Bengal and Assam of northern India. The weaving tradition of Bhutan has spanned several centuries with meticulously constructed traditional and classical designs of yesteryear, continuing to be woven by the Bhutanese. These geometrically inspired designs became fascinating to the author of “Designs of Bhutan” in the early 80s that led to the compilation of the designs in simple grid format. This format intended to capture the designs as both a historical record and for older classic designs to be replicated by current day weavers. Since the above collection published in 1985 additional fabrics and designs have been discovered and are now presented in this portfolio. The earlier publication had the advantage of discovering the Bhutanese names for each design. However, this is not the case with this portfolio that uses interpretations for each design name instead and some Bhutanese names. The foreword to “Designs of Bhutan” (White Lotus, Bangkok) by Dasho Barun Gurung, succinctly and aptly stated the background to Bhutanese design and weaving skills. “All such designs and art forms in Bhutan are inspired and influenced by Buddhist tradition. Besides an obvious aesthetic value, such designs and art forms represent a larger tradition and culture that has survived over the centuries. This very tradition has lent and identity and uniqueness to Bhutanese society that has sustained us in this period of transition and rapid modernization.” Further studies in the future will undoubtedly reveal further information concerning the derivation and beliefs associated with many Bhutanese designs. It is however evident that the patterns and motifs contained herein have been strongly influenced by the Buddhist and Bonpo religions, as well as by the personal and individual expression and interpretation of weavers and craft persons. Before “Designs of Bhutan” and this 2nd edition were completed, it is believed that most designs were held inside the minds of the weavers who wove from memory. These two volumes’ singular aim is to preserve a truly unique Bhutanese art and craft embedded in classical Bhutanese fabrics of dress, decoration and utilitarian items by providing, on paper, designs captured from various textile collections. Their inspiration is doubtless drawn and gives us a glimpse into the window of the physical structure of the country: mountains, rivers, waterfalls, clouds, mists, cascades, hills and valleys, and from the abundance of flora and fauna as well as the natural phenomena of lighting and earthquakes. Evelyn Domingo-Barker and David K. Barker


Textile Designs


Example of designs used on a Kira (Ladies dress)


Textile Designs


Animal and flower designs


Textile Designs

1. Goat

4. Butterfly

2. Peacock

5. Bird

3. Human form



6. Man and Yak

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7. Yak and stylised human

10. Yak with stylised human

8. Black crane

9. Peacock

11. Flower 7

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12. Flowers

14. Flowers

13. Flowers 8

15. Flowers and leaves

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Small designs


17. Swastika

18. DorjĂŠs 16. Grapes


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20. Human and halo

19. Dorjé with swastika

21. Prayer flags 11

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22. Double Dorjés

24. Pagodas

23. Prayer flags 12

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25. Basket

27. Butterfly

26. Flower with leaves

28. Four prayer wheels 13

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Medium Designs



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29. Chorten


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  31. Thangka

32. Wind prayer wheel

30. Chortens

33. Basket 16

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34. Zar Dre

36. Prayer wheels

35. Small Dzong

37. Festival basket 17

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38. Prayer box

39. Four Dorjés

40. Baskets 18


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41. Hand prayer wheels


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42, Swastikas in Dorjé 20

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43. Yak horns

44. Alpine 21

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47. Gemse

45. Simbachan

48. Spaced diamonds

46. Choeting 22

49. Ninze Drami

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50. Library

51. Simbachan and flags 23

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52. Butterfly

53. Flags and pedestal 24

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54. Mehub

55. Meto 25

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57. Tren

56. Knives 58. Diamonds 26

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59. Chorten

61. Butterfly

60. Peyab

62. Byapoi Zen 27

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64. Trikep

63. Double Drami 65. Mountain trails 28

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66. Zerpa


68. Tangka

67. Four butterflies 69. Bangchu Drami 29


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70. Chhuam

72. Drums

71. Feathers

73. Dorjé Drami

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74. Tashi Delek


76. Meto

75. Mani la khor 77. Wind prayer wheel


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78. Victory

79. Koma Meto



80. Shingsa Dre

81. Zar Dre

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82. Log and gentian

83. Jangtham

84. Thempang 33

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85. Shinglo

86. Scroll



87. Jichu Mito

88. Peyab Ninze

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89. Dorjé Baa

90. Trikep


91. Pechu Meto

92. Dorjé Dre 35

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93. Waterfalls

94. Tangka 36


95. Chorten

96. Cushions

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97. Flags

98. Swastika and flags


99. Zar Dre

100. Spears 37

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101. Dorcha Drami

102. Gangri Tren 38


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103. Pastoral

104. Chortens 39


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105. Yuenrung

107. Zim

106. Tshito

108. Wind prayer wheel

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109. Phyemali

110. Waterfalls and trails 41

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111. Diamonds

112. Karsi Tangtin 42


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113. Pinnacle

114. Drami 43

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Large designs


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115. Tangtin


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116. Dorcha Drami



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117. Spears and flags


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118. Dorjé Japtha

119. Valleys 48


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120. Phyemali Tren


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121. Bangchu



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123. Trikep


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124. Karsi Drami 52


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125. Peyab


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126. Kempa

127. Multiple Yuenrung 54

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128. Bom Trikep Dre 55

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129. Peyab and cascades


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130. Karsi Che


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131. Tima Mehub 58


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132. Bom Trikep 59

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133. Mehub Tima



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134. Karsi


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135. Log



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136. Flames


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137. Tshito



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138. Forest 65

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139. Scrolls



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140. Mani wall and prayer wheels


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141. Mountains and flowers


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142. Torma


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143. Small Dzong



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144. Feathers


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145. Ungsham



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146. Fortress 73

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147. Section of 146 74


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147. Centre section of 146 75

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148. Mani wall and ferns


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149. Gomong Khora


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150. Paro



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151. Multiple flowers 79

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152. Chorten and prayer wheels


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153. Zerpa


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154. Dorcha



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155. Kempa


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156. Double Torma



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157. Ladders


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158. Bangchu

159. Rotation 86


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160. Yathra


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161. Tangtin



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162. Pechu


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163. Belo Meto



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164. Bangchu Drami


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165. Zim



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166. Shingsa Dre


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167. Sun rays



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168. Multi Yuenrung


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169. Belo



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170. Baa


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171. Shinglo



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172. Japtha


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173. Trikep



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174. Choeting

175. Gemse Norbo Chunku 101

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176. Janag Chagri

177. Phyemali in flight 102

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178. Seku


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179. Chorten Gemse


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180. Pagodas


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181. Thikta Meto



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182. Forests and mountains


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183. Himalayas



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184. Mani La Khor


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185. Bom Tshito



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186. Kempa


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187. Spring



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188. Thempang


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199. Mehub Dhama


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200. Darkang 115

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201. Drums



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Border designs


203. Drami border

202. Streams


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204. Cascades 205. Tsechu


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207. Libraries

206. Gencha


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209. Baskets 208. Continuous Yeunrung 121

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210. Yuenrung in fields 122


211. Kochap

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213. Drum border 212. Hunting arrows


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214. Tshito 124


215. Meeto

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216. Ninze


217. Shingsa 125

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219. Phyemali border 218. Janag Chagri 126

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220. Garey Dhama

221. Kongbu


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222. Kera



223. Japtha

224. Yuenrung and flags

225. Godi border


226. Compound Tangka


227. Feathers

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228. Jichu Mito


229. Pema border


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231. Tashigang 230. Japtha and diamonds


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232. Drami border


233. Alpine flowers


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234. Gentian



235. Jichu

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236. Mountain mist 237. Mountains and streams 135

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238. Seepa 136


239. Zar

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240. Compass 241. Landscape 137

242. Norbo

243. Flowers and mist

244. Che


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245. Godi meander

246. Torma meander

247. Takure meander 139

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248. Mountain streams

249. Spears 140

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250. Kera Mentha

251. Zerpa meander 141

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252. Pedastel meander

253. Ha meander 142

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254. Wangdi

255. Yalang 143

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256. Tangka meander

Exquisite weaving skills displayed on a kira 144

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General Notes Design names. Wherever possible, the Bhutanese names are given with each of the designs. In other instances designs are provided with descriptive names. While designs have particular overall names, several features, sometimes derived from several sources of

inspiration, are often combined into one design. The name that is applied appears to refer to the most predominant feature of the design.

The Kira (Ladies’ dress) The kira is the canvas for the display of exquisite designs and the excellent skills of the weaver. It is normally composed of three 50 cm (20 in) loom widths of handwoven fabric with an overall length of 250 cm (100 in). Background colours are traditionally white, blue, black, green or red, and classification of the kira is according to the background colour used. Older textiles, pre-20th century, were usually of four colours: black, red, dark blue and offwhite. CONSTRUCTION OF A TYPICAL KIRA Fig. 1

A. End border B. Side border (1 in = 2.5 cm)

a. Narrow intense design strips b. Large geometric forms c. Demi-forms (half-forms) d. Large geometric forms in smaller format 145

Textile Designs

Within each loom width large geometric and main designs in general seem to be repeated twice in parallel, and these, with the accompanying intense design strips and other motif inclusions, comprise the width of the loom. One loom width comprises a series of design units with border panels at each end. Each woven design unit consists of two of the same full size motifs, sometimes of differing colours, with four attendant demi-forms to each full size design and supporting intense design strips. This design unit measures approximately 25 x 50 cm (10 x 20 in).

End borders. The border panels at each end are usually between 38 to 50 cm (15 to 20 in) width and consist of between seven and nine repeat border motifs in panels. End border. Centre panel. Fig. 4

One design unit. Centre panel of kira. Fig. 2

I. II. III. a.

Narrow intense design strips; each of three parts: two borders, same design (d) and one centre panel. b. Large geometric forms (2) c. Demi-forms (4) Intense design strip. Refer ‘a’ figure 2. Fig. 3

d. Border strips e. Meander or small border design


Panels are of the same design, with the least detail. Panels contain more detail than those at I. Panels that contain most detail.

The two side borders, Figure 1, vary between 11 to 20 cm (41/2 to 8 in) width, and may be unadorned stripes or have a small motif embellishment. In some instances specific designs are combined on a panel to provide an illusion of viewing mountains when the fabric is seem from a distance. The effect created is the result of a predominance of large and colourful design elements (mountains) that overshadow the smaller, less predominant ones. This illusion is particularly clear when the kira is fully opened; this ‘secondary’ effect may not be apparent when the kira is worn. Colours. Although a vast range of colours has been used in Bhutan, particularly in the more recent times, the tonal effects within each piece conform to harmony and careful balancing in order to create an overall effect of good taste and pleasure. This balancing is particularly significant in all Buddhist concepts and art forms.

Textile Designs


Glossary Notes: The various descriptive words used for each of the designs are written in the phonetic form of Dzongkha, the national language. Several dialects and languages are spoken so that variations of Dzongkha are also used to describe the designs.

important elements. In daily use for audiences with His Majesty the King; visit to the dzong and official occasions. Approximately 215-250 cm (85-99 in) in length with a width of 40-120 cm (16-48 in). Different colours are used according to the rank of the wearer.

Aikapur. Narrow, plain stripes alternated with narrow design strips. Cotton or silk.

Chakra. Wheel of Law. One of the eight auspicious signs of the Buddhist faith, representing the word set in motion.

Dorjé Vajra, ‘thunderbolt.’ The five pointed darts that touch, represent the five bodies of Dyani Buddhas. The diamond form implies indestructability and complete pureness. Also used in Buddhism as the male symbol.

Che. “Tongue of the fire.” Flames

Drami. ‘Net’, interlocking design.

Chepsa. Small dagger normally carried in the gho by menfolk.

Dre. Design.

Baa. Fine and graceful bamboo used for basketry. Back-strap loom. Weaver’s personal loom that provides for warp tension to be adjusted by movement of the weaver’s back. The width of loom normally used in Bhutan is approximately 50.8 cm (20 in). Bangchu. Special type of round, airtight, woven bamboo container used for giving gifts and carrying food.

Cheptala. Ritual metal object with a vase shape. Chhagsi pangkheb. Honorific name for a special cloth used when eating; community napkin. Characterised by a strong central motif. Approximately 208 x 92 cm (82 x 36 in).

Belo. Traditional form of bamboo hat. Usually 31 cm (12 in) in diameter.

Chhuam. Dragonfly.

Bhundi. Heavy-load carrying cloth usually with woven cords at each of the four corners. Approximately 128 cm (50 in) square.

Chokse. Four directions of the compass.

Choeting. Lamp.

Boden. Woven design which creates a soft ‘cushion-like” effect.

Chorten. Structure used for worship usually housing sacred relics. Of various sizes in eight distinct forms.

Boku. See Koh

Chume. Whirlpool.

Bom. Large

Chunku. Small flower.

Bo(u)mthang. Central valley known for its large fortress, forestry school and significant holy places of Buddhist worship.

Colours. Traditionally, colours were obtained from vegetable and natural sources. In recent years aniline dyes have been introduced for various textiles, although traditional dyes are still in use.

Bon. Of the Bonpo faith. Shamanistic rites and practices are still in evidence in the interior of Bhutan. Bura. Raw silk. Byapoi zen. Cock’s comb. Byichu meto. Eyes of a small bird. Bykur. Basket design. Ceremonial scarf. Made from various fibres with silk being used throughout the scarf for the most

Conch shell. One of the eight auspicious signs of the Buddhist faith. Represents the spoken word, power over water. Darkang. Special form of tassel used in monasteries and for adornment of various objects. Usually of brocade in several colours. Approximately 23 x 8 cm (9 x 3 in). Dengkep. Throne cover usually of appliqué.

Dhama. Leaves. Dhumre. Garden flowers. Dorcha. Courtyard.

Jamje. Ceremonial teapot. In daily use by the royal household and high lamas. Janag chagri. A wall of particular consequence and when used as embellishment or decoration it is likely to depict the Mani wall: prayer wall. Jangtham. In regular sequence. Japtha. The decorative chain that links two koma. Jichu. Bird. Jichu kam. Leg of the bird.

Dromchu chaim. Generic name for extra designs on lungsema, mense mathra and aikapur fabrics used for the kira and gho.

Karsi. Trident. Normally seen carried in the left hand of the saint and teacher Padma Sambhava.

Druksume. Triangles.

Kempa. Pinchers.

Dzong. Fort, monastery and administrative centre of a district.

Kera. Woven belt or sash, with fringe ends, of a size about 200 x 35 cm (80 x 14 in). Usually woven in wool or cotton and used by men as a belt for the gho, by women as a belt for the kira.

Eternal knot. Endless knot. One of the eight auspicious signs of the Buddhist faith. Represents longevity. Also known as luck knot, life knot or love knot. Eura. Thread/fibre/yarn of the stinging nettle plant. Gangri. Large mountain.

Khamar. Head person of three or four villages.

Gentian. Blue flower common at high altitudes in the Himalayas.

Kira. National dress of the Bhutanese female, worn daily throughout Bhutan. A wrap-around dress length. Approximately 250 x 150 cm (100 x 60 in). Woven in strips of 50 cm (20 in) width, on a back-strap loom. Its rich fabric and embellishment comprises cotton, wool, silk or combination of all three. May be panelled so that for daily use the less decorated portion only will show, and the highly decorated portion on special and ceremonial occasions.

Gho. See Koh.

Kishung. See Poncho.

Ghu. Nine.

Kishuthara. Provincial kira made from natural or unbleached cotton.

Garey. Small mountain. Gau. Amulet or prayer box. Gemse/Jemse. Scissors. Gencha. Generic name for jewellery.

Gibden. See Boden. Godi. Bhutanese style window. Gomong khora. Multi-door chorten. Ha. Flat valley in Western Bhutan with ancient trade links to Tibet. Jahtso. Red dye obtained from a plant on which a parasite is grown.

Kochap. Special ceremonial belt. Koh, Boku, Gho. National dress of the Bhutanese male, worn daily throughout Bhutan. Made from three or four lengths of material, generously cut to allow for wrapping around the body; placing of the kera, belt; and to form a pouch for carrying personal items and daggers. Woven in striped


design from cotton, wool or silk or a combination of all three. The lengthy sleeves can be folded back over the wrists. Koma. Decorative shoulder clips, worn as a pair, to clasp the kira at the shoulders. Linked together by a japtha. Usually made of silver with a gold finish. Kongbu. Butter lamp used for religious and ceremonial purposes. Kumney. Male ceremonial scarf. La. Honorific. Highest point. Leushum. Fine quality cotton and name of design. Log. Lightning. Lotus. See Pema. Mandala. Geometric diagram of magical or mystical content. Mani dunkhor. Large prayer wheel containing mantras, prayers. Mani la khor. Hand-held personal prayer wheel containing mantras, prayers.. Mapshem. Fabric of cotton, wool or silk woven with a jathso, red background. Marchang. Ceremonial tripod used to support the throe, a special cast metal bowl for liquids. Meeto. Small. Megeche. See Che. Mehub. See Che. Mentha. Fabric with a pleasing array of small floral patterns set in fine stripes. Meto. Flower. Mito. Eye. Napshem. Fabric of cotton, wool or silk woven with black background. Ngoshem. Fabric of cotton, silk or wool woven with blue or green background.

Textile Designs Pangkheb. Special cloth, similar to the chhagsi pangkheb, but with smaller designs and with less decoration. Approximately 243 x 72 cm (96 x 28 in). Paro. Valley in western Bhutan which until recent times was the principal cultural, commercial and political focus of the country. Home of the National Museum. Pecha. Books. Pechu. See Bhundi.


Tashi Delek. Good luck. Tashigang. Valley in eastern Bhutan and important weaving centre. Thempang. Crossbeams. Thikta. Random. Tima. Twisted threads. Lace effect. Toigo. Outside blouse/jacket for the kira, usually of silk brocade.

Pema. Lotus. One of the eight auspicious signs of the Buddhist faith. Represents perfection and purity.

Torma. Image to represent certain gods and goddesses.

Peyab. See Eternal Knot.

Trident. See Karsi.

Phyemali. Butterfly.

Trikep. Appliqué cover in felt or silk.

Poncho. Sleeveless shirt-style dress. Usually made of unbleached cotton or wool. Approximate size 120 cm length by 90 cm width (48 x 36 in). Usually embellished with fine designs in silk or cotton. Prayer flags. Narrow strips of fabric with woodblock printed prayers, fitted to lofty poles and erected in auspicious places throughout the country. Punaka. Until the 1950’s winter capital of Bhutan. Remains the winter home of the Je Kenpo (Chief Abbot) spiritual leader of Bhutan. Rachung. Wide scarf with fringed ends, used for holding children on the back. Seepa. Butter container. Seku. Wood or bamboo utensil used for grinding chillies. Selwaimelong. Divine mirror. Symbol of happiness.

Tren. Clouds.

Truntrun. White bird. Tsangkhu. Grain carrier. Tschering kingkhor. Special hat of long life. Tshito. Cross or ‘X’. Ungsham. Honorific. Hat of the Yellow Hats. Wonju. Inside blouse for the kira, usually of a single coloured silk. Yalang. Village in central Bhutan close to the capital Thimphu. Yathra. Usually woven from wool and used as a floor covering or blanket. In various sizes and composed of three or four 50 cm (20 in) woven strips. The length is usually between 140-200 cm (56-80 in). Total width 150-200 cm (60-80 in). Normally woven in central Bhutan.

Seshe. Filament of refined silk.

Yin/yang. Represents universal dualism; the male/female symbol.

Sham. Base.

Yura. See Eura.

Shinglo. Plant.

Yeunrung. Ancient line design with the crampons facing to the right. Known in Bon iconography.

Shingsa. Special fruit.

Nin. Sun.

Ta. Horse.

Yuroong. Swastika, an ancient line design with the crampons facing to the left. Known in Buddhist iconography.

Ninze. Rays of the sun.

Takure. Yarn spindle.

Zar. Fruits.

Norbo. Jewel.

Tangka. Chinese design. Tangtin. Small hand-held drums.

Zerpa. Thorns. Zim. Pliers.


Simbachan. A web design from eastern Bhutan.

Zuccha. Stinging nettle plant.

Textile Designs


Further reading Adams, Barbara. (1984) Traditional Textiles of Bhutan. Bangkok, Thailand: White Orchid. Barker, David. (1985) Designs of Bhutan, Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus. ——. (1985) "Bhutanese Handwoven Textiles." Arts of Asia 15, 4 (July–August): 103–111. ——. (1990) Textiles – Bhutan, Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, Volume 5, 445-447, A Berkshire Reference Work, Charles Scribner’s Sons’ New York. Bean, S., and D. Myers, eds. (1994) From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan. London: Serindia Publications. Bhutan, Royal Government Various issues, Druk Losel. Quarterly, Department of Information, Thimphu. Various issues, Kuensel. Weekly, Department of Information, Thimphu. Grieder, Susanne. (1995) Gesponnen Gewoben Getragen: Textilien aus Bhutan. Zurich: Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich. Hasrat, B.J. (1980) History of Bhutan: Land of the Peaceful Dragon, Royal Government of Bhutan, Department of Education, Thimphu: 241pp. Kapma, Alet, and Wouter Ton. (1993) Bhutanese Weaving: A Source of Inspiration. Thimphu, National Women's Association of Bhutan. Mele, P.F. (1982) Bhutan, Paragon Book Gallery, Delhi. Myers, Diana. (1998) Glimpses of the Past, Visions of the Present: Costume and Ceremonial Textiles of Bhutan. Washington, DC: Textile Museum Journal. ——. (1995) "The Kushung and Shingka of Bhutan." Hali, 78 (December/January): 73–81. ——. (1995) "The Social Life of Cloth in Bhutan." Fiberarts, 21, 5 (March/April): 25–31. ——. (1994) "Textiles in Bhutan: Cloth, Gender and Society." In Bhutan: Aspects of Culture and Development, edited by Michael Aris and Michael Hutt. Gartmore, Scotland: Kiscadale. Pommaret, Francoise. (1994) "Textiles in Bhutan: Way of Life and Identity Symbol." In Bhutan: Aspects of Culture and Development, edited Michael Aris and Michael Hutt. Gartmore, U.K.: Kiscadale, 173–190. UNESCO. (1983) Bhutan, Asian Culture No. 35, Asian Cultural Centre, Tokyo. Yablonsky, Gabrielle. (1997) "Textiles, Religion and Gender in Bhutan: A Dialogical Approach." In Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 7th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, edited by Ernst Steinkellner, H. Krasser, and M. Much. Vienna: Osterreischische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1081–1102.


Textile Designs


About the author

David Keith Barker was born in England and completed his full-time education in England and the South Pacific. In 1968, he commenced his career with international organisations undertaking assignments in the Caribbean, Iran, Fiji, Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand. For several years he was a freelance photographer and writer specialising in handicrafts and associated subjects. He is now retired and is resident in Thailand with his wife Evelyn. Both continue to actively assist and support NGOs in Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam. Pema, the only daughter, currently works at a Museum in New York. His personal discovery of Bhutanese textiles occurred during visits to the country in the 1980’s and prompted his compilation of Designs of Bhutan in 1985 to record textile designs seen on early century fabrics for repetition by present day weavers and to preserve their historic importance. Currently he is preparing additional manuscripts on Prayer Wheels of the Himalayas, Maskey: Premier Artist of Nepal and The Kiras of Bhutan.


Textile Designs of Bhutan  

Traditional and classical textiles of the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan. 250 designs collated in graphical format.

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