The first humans probably arrived sometime after the Ice Age, and little is known about Bhutan's prehistory. Historical records began with the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century, when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) visited Bhutan and established monasteries.
In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese accord returned the areas of Bhutan annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India's responsibilities in defense and foreign relations.
In December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred power to his oldest son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, bestowing upon him the title of the fifth Druk Gyalpo. The official coronation took place in November 2008. The Fifth King is Boston and Oxford educated and is held in high esteem throughout the country.
Bhutanese art is similar to the art of Tibet. Both are based upon Vajrayana Buddhism, with its pantheon of divine beings The major orders of Buddhism in Bhutan are Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma. The former is a branch of the Kagyu School and is known for paintings documenting the lineage of Buddhist masters and the 70 Je Khenpo (leaders of the Bhutanese monastic establishment). The Nyingma order is known for images of Padmasambhava ("Guru Rinpoche"), who is credited into Bhutan in the 7th century.
In Bhutan, the traditional arts are known as zorig chusum (zo = the ability to make; rig = science or craft; chusum = thirteen). These practices have been gradually developed through the centuries, often passed down through families with long-standing relations to a particular craft. These traditional crafts represent hundreds of years of knowledge and ability that has been passed down through generations.
The great 15th century treasure finderterton, Pema Lingpa is traditionally credited with introducing the arts into Bhutan. In 1680,Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal ordered the establishment of the school for instruction in the 13 traditional arts. Although the skills existed much earlier, it is believed that the zorig chusum was first formally categorized during the rule of Tenzin Rabgye(1680-1694), the 4th Druk Desi(secular ruler).
The thirteen traditional arts are:
Dezo - Paper Making: Handmade paper made mainly from the Daphne plant and gum from a creeper root.
Dozo - Stonework: Stone arts used in the construction of stone pools and the outer walls of dzongs,goenpa (monasteries),stupas, and some other buildings.
Garzo - Blacksmithing: The manufacture of iron goods, such as farm tools, knives, swords, and utensils.
Jinzo - Clay arts: The making of religious statues and ritual objects, pottery and the construction of buildings using mortar, plaster, and rammed earth.
Lhazo - Painting: From the images on thangkas (religious wall hangings), walls paintings, and statues to the decorations on furniture and window-frames.
Lugzo - Bronze casting: Production of bronze roof-crests, statues, bells, and ritual instruments, in addition to jewelry and household items using sand casting and lost-wax casting. Larger statues are made by repousse.
Parzo - Wood, slate, and stone carving: In wood, slate or stone, for making such items as printing blocks for religious texts, masks, furniture, altars, and the slate images adorning many shrines and altars.
Shagzo - Woodturning: Making a variety of bowls, plates, cups, and other containers.
Shingzo - Woodworking: Employed in the construction of dzongs and goenpa (monasteries)
Thagzo - Weaving: The production of some of the most intricately woven fabrics produced in Asia.
Trozo - Silver and Goldsmithing: Working in gold, silver, and copper to make jewelry, ritual objects, and utilitarian household items.
Tshazo - Cane and Bamboo Work: The production of such varied items as bows and arrows, baskets, drinks containers, utensils, musical instruments, fences, and mats.
Tshemazo - Needlework: Working with needle and thread to make clothes, boots, or the most intricate of applique thangkas (religious wall hangings).
Bhutanese textiles are a unique art form inspired by nature made in the form of clothing, crafts and different types of pots in eye-catching blend of colour, texture, pattern and composition.
Most Bhutanese art, including 'Painting in Bhutanese art', known as lhazo, is invariably religion centric. These are made by artists without inscribing their names on them.
The art of making religious sculptures is unique in Bhutan and hence very popular in the Himalayan region. The basic material used for making the sculptures is clay, which is known as jinzob.
Handmade paper known as deysho is in popular usage in Bhutan and it is durable and insect resistant. The basic material used is the bark of the Daphne plant. This paper is used for printing religious texts; traditional books are printed on this paper.
Wood carving known as Parzo is a specialised and ancient art form, which is significantly blended with modern buildings in the resurgent Bhutan.
Bamboo Craft made with cane and bamboo is known as thazo. It is made in many rural communities in many regions of Bhutan. Few special items of this art form are the belo and the bangchung, popularly known as the Bhutanese "Tupperware" basket made in various sizes. Baskets of varying sizes are used in the homes and for travel on horseback, and as flasks for local drink called the arra.