The Lhakhang: UTEP’s Cultural Jewel From Bhutan
The Lhakhang History and Significance
"We offer it as a symbol of our hopes for a future relationship, as stable, as durable and as sweet as the Himalayan pine that it is made of.” “We are very happy that this [lhakhang] will have a home in the beautiful and, I dare say, Bhutanese campus of The University of Texas at El Paso.”
-His Royal Highness Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck
Traditionally known as "Druk Yul” or “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” the Kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the least known countries in the world. In April of 1914, National Geographic magazine published the first photographs of Bhutan. Taken during a travel expedition between 1905 and 1907 by the accomplished amateur photographer John Claude White, these photographs had an enormous impact on the design of the future buildings and campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. Since 1917, and still visible throughout the campus today, UTEP’s architectural designs have incorporated Bhutanese elements and art.
In the summer of 2008, the Smithsonian Institution featured the Kingdom of Bhutan during their Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Bhutanese craftsmen – carpenters, painters, and other skilled artisans – constructed an authentic lhakhang or temple on the National Mall. At the opening ceremonies of the Festival, His Royal Highness Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck presented the lhakhang as a gift to the United States.
Today, the beautiful Lhakhang sits proudly on UTEP's Centennial Plaza, surrounded by dozens of other buildings in the Bhutanese architectural style. It is a cultural artifact that reflects thousands of years of traditional craftsmanship, such as hand-carved wooden elements and hand-painted fabric wall murals. The lhakhang at UTEP is typical of the hundreds of lhakhangs found in Bhutan and is the only structure of its kind found outside the small Himalayan country.
Along with other cultural artifacts, such as the prayer flags on the hilltop of the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens and the hand-embroidered tapestries that adorn the walls of several buildings, the Lhakhang stands out as the center of Bhutanese culture at UTEP. Furthermore, this amazing structure has become a symbol of friendship between two countries that are miles apart.
The Lhakhang 360° Virtual Tour is an online alternative in exploring the Lhakhang for those unable to visit physically. This virtual experience allows viewers to tour the Lhakhang through their desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or mobile phone from anywhere in the world.
The Floor Plan and Interactive Guide serve as an on-site, self-guided tour that allows visitors in the Lhakhang to access the meaning behind the paintings and interact with the art by way of text, video, and audio via mobile device. Visitors will be able to scan a QR code to access the floor plan and guide in either English or Spanish. It's secondary function is to add to the overall online virtual tour experience. Augmented reality coming soon!
Zuill Bailey is a multiple Grammy award-wining cellist and a distinguished soloist, recitalist, and scholar. He is the Artistic Director for the Center for Arts Entrepreneurship at UTEP. This fall, Mr. Bailey performed Allemande from Suite No. 1, composed by Bach, in the Lhakhang for the Arts Alive project. UTEP Arts Alive main page
For more Information
The Lhakhang Cultural Exhibit at The University of Texas at El Paso is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday and from 11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Saturday of each month, except on holidays.
The exhibit is overseen by the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens.
Parking is available at the Centennial Museum parking lot.
Information: Claudia Ley, Museum Education Curator, 915-747-8994 or firstname.lastname@example.org