Tongsa Jong [Trongsa Dzong, Bhutan]
Photographer: White, John Claude
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph looking along the walls of the Dzong (Bhutanese fort), towards one of the small entrance gateways, at Tongsa (Trongsa) in central Bhutan, taken by John Claude White in 1905. This photograph was also reproduced in The National Geographical Magazine (Apr 1914). White described the dzong in his article, 'The fort is composed of a wonderful collection of buildings. Within its numerous courtyards, temples and dwellings it contains a population of perhaps 3,000 lamas and laymen, and could hold 6,000.' This is one of a set of photographs documenting White's mission to Bhutan to invest Sir Ugyen Wangchuk, the Penlop (Governor) of Tongsa, with the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. Trongsa Dzong is one of the most magnificent examples of Bhutanese architecture with elaborate woodwork decoration, seen from a great distance due to its impressive elevation. Its history begins from the 16th century when, believing this to be the abode of Palden Lhamo, Bhutan's guardian deity, a monk meditated here. Its present form dates from 1644 when the fortress was built as part of a programme to unify the country. Its strategic location at the heart of Bhutan gave it great power and it controlled all east-west routes. It was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1897; most of its existing decoration dates from the time of Ugyen Wangchuk, who was elected Bhutan's first king in 1907 and established a hereditary monarchy. As the ancestral dzong of the Bhutanese royal family, traditionally the crown prince
occupies a ceremonial post here as the Penlop or governor of Trongsa. The monastic body of the dzong shifts here in winter and to Bumthang in the summer.