Towards the end of my trip in Bhutan, we made a stop on the way back to Paro in Thimphu to visit a traditional dezo (paper-making) factory called the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory.

Bhutan takes immense pride in its culture, history and traditions and the government has tried hard to keep the Kingdom’s artistic heritage alive through its art schools and community programs offering education in the centuries-old traditions of painting, weaving, woodwork and paper making. A visit to a workshop or factory producing these amazing handicrafts is a must for any traveler to Bhutan.

Traditional Bhutanese paper making

Traditional paper making can be traced back to the 8th century and is believed to have come to Bhutan from China via the trade routes through Tibet. Per the Handicrafts Association of Bhutan, “Dezo or the art of making traditional paper (desho) was popular in the past as most religious scriptures and text were written on desho using local ink or gold dust. Dezo is made from the bark, fibre and pulp of Daphne tree which grows naturally in Bhutan.

The Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory opened in 1990 and was established by the Government Ministry of Trade and Industry to help protect and preserve the ancient practice of traditional paper making in Bhutan. Two years later, the factory was privatized by Norbu Tenzin, a highly trainer paper maker, who continues to run the factory using local artisans from the community. Today, the descho is sold around the world including in a small gift shop next to the factory.

I was delighted to have time to stop by the factory for a quick visit. Outside the door, we saw our first Daphne tree which is the primary source for the paper.

Daphne tree which is used to make traditional paper in Bhutan

Singay points out a Daphne tree which is used to make traditional paper in Bhutan. “Jungshi” means “natural”.  All materials for the paper are sourced locally.

Daphne tree bark

A close-up look at the bark

As we entered the doors of the small factory, I was amazed to see it abuzz with life and movement. There we watched the process from start to finish of making descho by hand. 

The first step of the process is the initial soaking of the picked daphne bark in a giant tub of water.

The first step of the process is the initial soaking of the picked daphne bark in a giant tub of water.

After the soaking, next is boiling and then rinsing the bark. The bark is then moved over to the artisans to begin the manual sorting process where all the bad fibers are removed.

Sorting of daphne bark to make traditional bhutanese paper

After the bark is crushed and pounded into pulp, it is placed into a giant vat where it is mixed with water and vegetable starch.

Traditional Bhutanese paper making into pulp

The gooey mixture is then placed into a wooden frame and bamboo screen to filter out a thin layer of pulp on the screen and pile it up on the paper bed. This step is called layering.

Layering the pulp to make traditional Bhutanese paper

Women layer pulp into large rectangular frames and then compress the screens on top to squeeze out the excess water. 

Traditional Bhutanese paper making

Flowers and other natural fora are added to decorate the paper

Finally, the paper is pulled from the frame and hung to dry, sheet by sheet, on a smooth board. The finished products are all on display right next door at the factory’s gift shop.

We ended our visit with a stop at the lovely gift shop where you can purchase beautiful handmade cards, journals, photo albums, wrapping paper and more.  It makes a great gift for home and best of all, the purchase supports the local artisans keeping this ancient tradition alive for future generations to enjoy.




    1. Thanks Janet! Me too! It was something I really wanted to see and glad we were able to fit it in to the schedule. I bought a beautiful journal for my daughter and also some lovely handmade cards. Hope you are well. My parents say that it has been incredibly hot in AZ. No monsoon yet either. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. What a bizarre process, Nicole. Looking at the plant it looks too puny to produce anything. Man’s ingenuity is quite amazing, isn’t it?

    1. Yes it was pretty cool to watch. I imagine they have a lot of the Daphne plant growing nearby. What is crazy is to think that they started this craft centuries ago. I’m glad it is still being preserved today. Hope you are doing well!

  2. When I was in Thimphu, I saw the layering process of dezo. Watching how a thin layer of paper was made one after another was quite therapeutic, I must say. And the addition of floral petals and leaves only made these humble pieces of paper even more beautiful.

    1. It sounds like you did a lot of similar things that I did. I bought some of the paper to bring home.It is lovely!

      1. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go. It sounded cool though

  3. Wonderful post. I love seeing things like this – local arts and crafts done in the traditional way. It reminds me of a hand-made rice noodle factory I went to in Vietnam – 21 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it! People are so clever.

    1. Thanks Alison! Sorry for the delay in response. It was a really beautiful thing to see. I wish I was more artsy as I love watching what people can make with their hands. Hope you and Don are well!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.