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Tashichhu Jong [Thimphu, Bhutan]

Tashichhu Jong [Thimphu, Bhutan]

Photographer: White, John Claude

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1905

Shelfmark: Photo 20/(9)

Item number: 9

Length: 18.2

Width: 30.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the Trashi Chhoe Dzong at Thimphu, Bhutan, taken by John Claude White in 1905. This is one of a set of photographs documenting John Claude White's mission to Bhutan to invest the Penlop (Governor) of Tongsa (Trongsa) in central Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuk, with the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. It was reproduced in The National Geographic Magazine (Apr 1914, p.392). White wrote in his accompanying article, 'Tashi-cho-jong is an imposing edifice, in the form of a parallelogram, the sides parallel to the river being twice the length of the other two. It differs from other forts in one particular. Instead of only one gate, it possesses two large gateways on the south, and another to the east, on the river face. It is protected on the west and the north by a wide foss filled with water.' This image was also reproduced in the Royal Geographical Society Journal (1910, p.25). Thimphu, formerly an insignificant town on the bank of the Wang Chhu river, became the capital of modern Bhutan in 1961. Trashi Chhoe Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion) is the symbol of the capital and centre of temporal and religious power. It houses the Throne Room and offices of the King and the Ministries of Finance and Home Affairs. It used to house the National Assembly until 1993. It 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.

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