Zhemgang: The realm of Kheng culture
“Khengpas” are the original inhabitants of Zhemgang. For many years, the region remained closed to tourism. Recently, a small part of Zhemgang was opened for bird watching and the opened region has become the jewel of tourism in Bhutan. People of Zhemgang divide themselves under three regions of upper, middle and lower Kheng.
Zhemgang offers the taste of unspoiled rural life of the Khangpas. They will surprise you with their animist traditions. The shamanistic practices, locally known as Bon are common here. Khengpas are adept artisans and are known for their bamboo products like wine containers, baskets, matted bamboo carpets and other cane products.
In the earlier times this region cultivated cotton crop and a major part of the earning was paid as tax to the government. Historically, there are traces of the advent of Guru Rinpoche (from the 8th century) though visible records can be seen mostly from the 15th century.
Temples like Buli lhakhang in Buli village and Tharpa Choeling is associated with the treasure revealers Terton Pema Lingpa who is famous for the Peling tradition of Buddhism. The Bhutanese Royal Family is a direct descendent of Pema Lingpa. Traditionally, the Kheng region was divided into three regions of Chikhor (Uper Kheng), Nangkhor (Middle Kheng) and Tamachok (Lower Kheng).
Chikor (upper kheng)
There are eleven villages in Chikhor or upper Kheng. They are Nimshong, Thashong, Zangling, Thrisa, Bardo, Khomshar, Langdurbi, Digala, Radhi, Wamling and Shingkhar.
Nangkor (middle kheng)
Nangkhor or Middle Kheng comprises nine villages. The villages are Dakphay, Norbugang, Kikhar Tali, Buli, Goling, Zhobling, Nyakhar and Tsheldang. These villages are located between the Mangde River and the villages of Dakphay and Dunmang. This region had four noble families in the past.
Tamachok/Matpala (lower kheng)
Tamachok or lower kheng has 15 villages. They are Bjokha, Dali, Panbang, Nangla, Goshing, Shidrong Toed, Phangkhar, Edi, Mamung, Gomphu, Subrang, Zurphel, Tshangla Jong and Berti. The villages are situated below Tama and above Bjokha villages.