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Mendong (prayer wall) dividing monastic from lay quarters: Tashichhu Jong [Thimphu, Bhutan].

Mendong (prayer wall) dividing monastic from lay quarters: Tashichhu Jong [Thimphu, Bhutan].

Photographer: White, John Claude

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1905

Shelfmark: Photo 20/(10)

Item number: 10

Length: 30.4

Width: 19.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the wall dividing the monastic and lay quarters within the Trashi Chhoe Dzong at Thimphu in Bhutan taken by John Claude White in 1905. This photograph also appears in The National Geographic Magazine (Apr 1914), with the caption, 'Interior of Tashi-Cho-Jong, showing the wall dividing the portion occupied by the laymen from that of the Lamas. The citadel in the background and a group of orderlies in front.' White also stated in his article, 'The northern and smaller portion of the castle is occupied entirely by the Ta-tshang lamas and is not usually open to laymen. The dividing wall is surmounted by a row of white chortens, or shrines, protected from the weather by a double roof. In the center of the inner courtyard is an extremely fine hall of audience or worship...the lamas were absent at Poonakha, their summer quarters, and all the decorations were either carefully put away or taken with them'. This is one of a set of photographs documenting White's mission to Bhutan to invest Ugyen Wangchuk, the Penlop (Governor) of Trongsa (Tongsa) in central Bhutan, with the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. The fortress of Trashi Chhoe Dzong is the summer quarters of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central monk body or Dratshang. A dzong was located near the site as far back as the early 13th century. In the 17th century, it was acquired by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the powerful spiritual leader who unified Bhutan), renamed by him as Fortress of the Glorious Religion and intended to house both monks and civil officials in the new system he devised. It was too small for both functions so he had to build a lower dzong for the civil officials. The original dzong was subsequently expanded to house both religious and secular offices. It however burned down in the 18th century and the lower dzong was then enlarged to accomodate both monks and officials. It has since suffered three fires and an earthquake and been rebuilt each time. It was also renovated and enlarged by the king when the capital shifted to Thimphu. The dzong at Punakha, the old capital, remains the winter residence of the Je Khenpo and the central monk body.

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