Printing Section

The traditional printing of important religious works onto Bhutanese handmade paper from wood-blocks is still carried out from time to time, but only in limited editions (time and production costs make manual block printing onto handmade paper uneconomic for the mass market).

letter-press printing

Hand operated letter-press printing is also carried out from time to time for the works of Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam for which the Library holds metal blocks.

The range of printing activities now includes the block printing of dharani (gzungs) for insertion in prayer wheels, Choten and Buddha images. In 1993, the Library successfully tendered to provide mantras for insertion in three new images (each 28-30 feet high) being made for Punakha Dzong as part of a major restoration project, supplying 200,000 sheets of the approximately 300,000 required to fill each statue.

Xylograph (woodblock) Printing Process

Woodblook printing was invented in China by the 7th century CE and was used largely for the purposes of propagating Buddhist literature. The oldest dated printed book in the world is a Chinese version of the Diamond Sutra from 868 now in the British Library which shows considerable level of sophistication. This printing process was enthusiastically adopted in Korea, Tibet and Bhutan because Buddhists believe great merit is attained by printing and distributing holy texts.

Bumthang was one of the early centres of woodblock printing in Bhutan and original woodblocks carved by Terchen Padma Lingpa still survive at Kunzang Trak retreat. Punakha Dzong also had a printing establishment which was famous through the Himalayan Region. Unfortunately, over the centuries there have been several major fires at Punakha Dzong, leading to the destruction of most of the woodblocks originally housed there.

Bhutanese continue to use this process right up to the present day for the purpose of printing important religious texts.