Efforts Made To Preserve Bhutan’s Unique Tradition Of Zhey

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Zheys are described as traditional Bhutanese folk songs. They are also sometimes referred to as classical dances.

Bhutanese women performing Zhey. (Source: Gps.travel)

 

By Changa Dorji | BBS

Many Bhutanese would know, or at least, have heard about Goen Zhey of Gasa, Wang Zhey of Thimphu, Nub Zhey of Trongsa and Woochupai Zhey of Paro. What many probably may not know is that there are several other Zheys apart from the main four Zheys which are more well-known in Bhutan.

What are Zheys?

Zheys are described as traditional Bhutanese folk songs. They are also sometimes referred to as classical dances.

The minor Zheys include Auley of Laya, Locho of Sha, Bonghur Zhey of Haa, and the Miritsemoi Zhey of Chukha.

 

Bhutanese dancers perform four major zheys (Goen Zhey of Gasa, Wang Zhey of Thimphu, Nub Zhey of Trongsa, Woochupai Zhey of Paro) and four minor zheys (Auley of Laya, Locho of Sha, Bonghur Zhey of Haa and Miritsemoi Zhey of Chukha)

Source:Sherub Dorji/Bhutangangchen

 

Of the less popular Zheys, the Lingzhipai Zhey could be the least known. A few studies have been done on the Zheys of Bhutan, but the Lingzhipai Zhey is barely mentioned.

Like most other Zheys, the origin and composition of the Lingzhipai Zhey are identified with the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

What sets Lingzhipai Zhey apart, though is that it is performed by both men and women together. The main Zheys are performed by men only.

Zheys are mainly performed during local festivals

The main Zheys are sung and danced only during local festivals, mainly Tshechus. Again the Lingzhipai Zhey is unique in that it is performed during an annual local traditional archery match that takes place in the Gangyul village of Lingzhi Gewog.

The archery match is held in the third Bhutanese month every year and Lingzhipai Zhey is a mandatory performance at the match.

“At one point, the Zhey was on the verge of disappearance,” Lingzhi Gewog Mangmi Tendrel Zangpo said.

However, the Jhomolhari Mountain Festival has given it a new lease of life.

“We were asked by Soe Gewog to perform the Zhey during the mountain festival. It was performed by 20 locals last year and about 40 locals performed the Zhey this year,” the Mangmi added.

Traditional costumes worn during a Zhey performance

The male dancers wear red woollen gho paired with black tego. They also wear the white lagay, khamar kabney and tshoglam and they carry a patang or sword.

Nub Choetepi Zhey of Trongsa

Source: Bhutankdttravel 

 

The women dancers wear a kira called 'Nyi-thi' and a drape called 'Charkap' which is a robe-like hand-woven scarf over their back.

While the men wear furry red caps, the women don a similar cap which is yellow in colour. The women dancers also adorn themselves with colourful neck ornaments.

Efforts made to preserve the traditional practice of Zhey

Thinley Chezom was one of the female performers. “We are doing our bit to preserve the folk songs by performing it at such events,” she said.

“We are also teaching our children whatever we’ve learned from our elders. We hope to perform better in the next festival since the performance this year did not match our expectations.”

Chimi Dorji, a male dancer said that he is not worried about its disappearance.

“Our younger generation is learning the Zhey from the elders, so I don’t think we need to worry about it disappearing,” he said.

“Also, it’s mandatory for a man and woman each from every household to perform the Zhey during the annual archery tournament. Moreover, the government has been encouraging us to preserve it.”

 

This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.

 


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