Sunday, April 3, 2011

Historical Background of Lingzhi Dzong

The posting of my photos of the beautiful and remote Linzhi Dzong aroused lot of interest among my readers, including myself. So I did a little research into its historical background and came up with the following.
If some readers have more information, please share with me so that I may update this post.

Chögyal Minjur Tenpa was appointed the third Druk Desi from 1667 to 1680. Of the many wars Bhutan fought with Tibet, two of them took place during his reign; first in 1667 and the second one in 1676 which lasted until 1678.
Lingzhi Dzong was constructed by Chögyal Minjur Tenpa in 1668 - to celebrate Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetans in the war of 1667. He named the Dzong as Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong. This Dzong is not to be confused with an older Dzong called Lingzhi Jagö Dzong which is located at Gungyül village about 4 hours walk from the main Lingzhi village towards Chebisa. Jagö Dzong is not a Dzong in the conventional sense but rather a temple constructed into the face of a huge cliff that rises steeply behind Gungyül village. Photo below.
In the modern times, the term “Dzong” has come to be identified with huge building structures that house the district administration and the monk body. However, when the word was originally coined, it did not always refer to a built-up structure. When references are made to “Dzongs” or “Phodrangs” in the ancient text books and scriptures, it could mean anything - a stone boulder, a cave, a temple, a cliff, a place of meditation etc. Thus, if you go to Singye Dzong in Lhuntse, you will be told of many Dzongs as Nges that are nothing more than caves and stones. Even the main structure that is referred to as the Singye Dzong, it is nothing more than a small temple.
Lingzhi Jagö Dzong finds mention in the Namthar (biography) of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. He was a well-known and highly revered lama of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage who came to Bhutan from Ralung in Tibet. He lived during the period 1208-1276. Thus, it is interesting to note that the Lingzhi Jagö Dzong is over 400 years older than the Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong which was built in 1668.
The catastrophic earthquake of June 12, 1897 which measured 8.7 on the Richter scale damaged Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong, as it did the Dzongs of Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Jakar and the Utse of Tashichho Dzong. It was rebuilt and served as the main defensive fortress to guard the northern borders with Tibet.
Currently, Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong houses about 30 monks headed by a Lam Neten. It is under the administrative control of Thimphu Dzongkhag.
Readers will be happy to know that there is a project that is underway to renovate the old Dzong. I am thrilled about this fact - this is what I have always supported - the renovation and maintenance of the old Dzongs and temples, instead of building new ones. In spite of modern techniques of construction and material, the beauty, the symmetry and the proportions of the old structures are far superior to the new Dzongs and temples being constructed around the country.

Thimphu Dzongdah informs me that Lingzhi Dzong is battered by strong winds during the winter months. As a result, it is customary for the Dzong’s wooden shingles and stone boulders that weigh them down, to be removed every winter and stacked them up on the ground below. The Dzong is reroofed every summer when the wind is not as strong. If this is not done, he tells me that the whole roof, including the wooden trusses would be lifted off and blown away. This corroborates nicely with my contention (in my earlier posts on the Ngele-La Pass and Lingzhi Dzong) that the stone pebbles on Ngele-La pass and the mountain sides of Lingzhi were deposited there by the strong winds that batter the area.
Druk Desi” was the title given to the secular rulers of ancient Bhutan under the dual system of governance that existed during those days. Under that system, government authority was divided among secular and religious administrations, both of which were unified under a single leader - Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. While the post of the Druk Desi has long been abolished, the ancient practice of the Je Khenpo heading the religious affairs still remain to this day.


  1. Awesome. Thank you for digging into the history and sharing it with us.

    The practice of removing the shingles & rocks every winter sounds like a back breaking task. Phew..

  2. Hi akp,
    Glad that you visited the Blog and read the little history on the Dzong. Actually, you are the one who encouraged me to dig a little deeper and do a background check on Lingzhi Dzong.

    You know, that is the thing about photography. It rewards you in so many varied ways! If it hadn't been for photography, I would have never visited Lingzhi. I would have never known of such a beautiful place. And if I hadn't known of this beautiful place, I would have never known of a piece of history that is a part of our nationhood.