Bangchung making in Bjoka


Bjoka gewog lies in the south-east part of the Zhemgang dzongkhag. It is considered as the remotest gewog in the dzongkhag. The gewog is around 31 km away from the Drungkhag Administration in Panbang, and it has five Chiwogs namely Trong, Dali, Barpong, Chapdemba, Kamati. The elevation of these chiwogs ranges from 150 m (Zarkabla village) to 1600 m (Yunling village) above sea level. The developmenta infrastructures in the gewog includes RNR centre, Beat office, Community Centre, farm shop, two health centres, ORCs, community primary schools and farm roads.

The gewog shares its boundary with Ngangla and Goshing gewog to the west, Bardho gewog to the north and Mongar Dzongkhag to the east. Villagers depend on subsidiary farming for their livelihood; however, the cane and bamboo handicrafts has been Bjoka’s fame from a very long time, particularly Bangchung making. It is the major source of income besides mandarin and potatoes.

In the recent years the community started a cooperative called Tsharzo Gongphel Cooperative in Bjoka and produces 37 different bamboo items for commercial purposes. However, their main selling item is bangchung, which are sold through their sales counter in Zhemgang. It is learned that a person can weave on an average of 50 bangchungs in a month and earns BTN 20,000 to 60,000 annually.

The Art of Bangchung-Making

Bangchung making is a special craft, which the people in Bjoka village have mastered over the years. They use a special type bamboo called Yulay, or the small climbing bamboo. Yulay can easily take the colors while dyeing unlike other types of bamboos. Traditionally bamboos are harvested at the peoples convenience around the year. However, its been around a decade now that the department of forest has implemented a time for harvest. People are now not allowed to harvest between the months of April to September. After the bamboos are harvested, it is cut into pieces depending on the size of bangchung that one weaves. These pieces are split into outer and inner parts and dried. Traditionally, it is woven intobangchung after it is freshly sliced however, today they stock it as they have only a few months to harvest the bamboos.

The sliced bamboos are seasoned for at least three weeks before they dye. While dying, it is first dyed in a yellow turmeric first. This is used as the primary color and let it dry. It is then dyed in different colors. They mostly use commercial dyes.

Types of Bangchungs and its Significance

In the olden days bangchungs are plates and lunch boxes. It was made in different sizes and patterns with different significances.

  • Barta
  • Phe drangma
  • Nyi kema
  • Dha gangma

Barta is a small sized bangchung(approx. 20-30 cm diameter), which looks like is it used for kids. However, Phe drangma is a half-sized bangchung compared to the Nyi kema. Nyi kema meaning double the share of a men’s meal. This bangchung traditionally should hold cooked rice share of two individuals- Mito nyi. Traditionally, high officials in the king’s court were offered in Nyi kema and they were served two servings of two-handful of rice. The bangchung should hold that amount of rice. It is called Mito nyi meaning two-persons’ portion of the meal. One share is for himself to consume and other share to be left as Soelra or gift for the common people in the bangchung. Therefore, Phe drangma is half the size of Nyi kema. Whereas, ordinary officers were served only one serving of two-hanful of rice. They are not expected to leave solera because of their ordinary rank. Subsequently, Da gangma is double the size of Nyi kema and should hold double the amount of rice which nyi kema can hold. Dha means arrow and gangma means full, which literally translates to a bungchung  that is diagonally equivalent to the length of an arrow.

According to Lam Jamtsho, the sizes of bangchungs are not accurate today as it used to be in the olden days. However, he also remembers people in the community telling him that bangching-makers have reduced the size of bangchungs after the advice from Jakar Nyerchen Karma. He might not have understood the significance of the sizes. This is during the reign of the Third king when the positions of Dzongda were not yet introduced. Nyerchens played the role of Dzongdas then.

However, the significance of the bangchung has changed today. It is rarely used as plates for the meals but mostly as decorations and gifts. Even in the villages, the usage of bangchungs as plates is largely replaced by imported plastic plates.


Choje Jamtsho, Sumthrang, Ura, Bumthang

Phurba Wangchuk, former gup, Ngangla (2011)

Chhimi Dorji and Phuntsho Wangyal (Phd), Bhutan Banboo Baseline and Situational Analysis Study for Promoting Integrated Bamboo Based Enterprise Development among SAARC Countries. Tarayana, Thimphu, 2018

Retrieved on 23rd August 2019

Researcher: Sonam Nyenda, Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Royal University of Bhutan, 2019.

(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)