Dzongpen (Dzongkha: རྗོང་དཔོན་; Wylie: rjong-dpon; also spelled "Dzongpon," "Dzongpön," "Jongpen," "Jongpon," "Jongpön") is a Dzongkha term roughly translated as governor or dzong lord. Bhutanese dzongpens, prior to unification, controlled certain areas of the country, but now hold no administrative office. Rather, dzongpens are now entirely subservient to the House of Wangchuck.

Traditionally, Bhutan comprised nine provinces: Trongsa, Paro, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Daga (also Taka, Tarka, or Taga), Bumthang, Thimphu, Kurtoed (also Kurtoi, Kuru-tod), and Kurmaed (or Kurme, Kuru-mad).[1] The Provinces of Kurtoed and Kurmaed were combined into one local administration, leaving the traditional number of governors at eight. While some lords ruled from dzongs (dzongpens), others held the title of penlop (Dzongkha: དཔོན་སློབ་; Wylie: dpon-slob; also "Ponlop"), a title also translated as "governor," though penlops tended to be more powerful.

Dzongpens ruled in Byagha, Dalay, Dalingkote, Ha, Kham, Punakha (the "Punab"), Singhi, Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu (the "Thimphub"), Tuwa, and Wangdue Phodrang (the "Wangzob").[2]

Under the dual system of government, penlops and dzongpens were theoretically masters of their own realms but servants of the Druk Desi. In practice, however, they were under minimal central government control, and the Penlop of Trongsa and Penlop of Paro dominated the rest of the local lords.[3] And while all governor posts were officially appointed by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, later the Druk Desi, some offices such as the Penlop of Trongsa were de facto hereditary and appointed within certain families. Penlops and dzongpens often held other government offices such as Druk Desi, governor of other provinces, or a second or third term in the same office.[4]


Under Bhutan's early theocratic dual system of government, decreasingly effective central government control resulted in the de facto disintegration of the office of Shabdrung after the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1651. Under this system, the Shabdrung reigned over the temporal Druk Desi and religious Je Khenpo. Two successor Shabdrungs – the son (1651) and stepbrother (1680) of Ngawang Namgyal – were effectively controlled by the Druk Desi and Je Khenpo until power was further splintered through the innovation of multiple Shabdrung incarnations, reflecting speech, mind, and body. Increasingly secular regional lords (penlops and dzongpens) competed for power amid a backdrop of civil war over the Shabdrung and invasions from Tibet, and the Mongol Empire.[5] The penlops of Trongsa and Paro, and the dzongpons of Punakha, Thimphu, and Wangdue Phodrang were particularly notable figures in the competition for regional dominance.[5][6]

Ugyen Wangchuck surrounded by his councillors at Punakha, Bhutan, 1905. Front Row: son of Thimphu Jongpen, Punakha Jongpen, Thimphu Jongpen, Trongsa Penlop, Zung Donyer [dronyer], Deb Zimpon, and elder son of Thimphu Jongpen.

Within this political landscape, the Wangchuck family originated in the Bumthang region of central Bhutan.[7] The family belongs to the Nyö clan, and is descended from Pema Lingpa, a Bhutanese Nyingmapa saint. The Nyö clan emerged as a local aristocracy, supplanting many older aristocratic families of Tibetan origin that sided with Tibet during invasions of Bhutan. In doing so, the clan came to occupy the hereditary position of Penlop of Trongsa, as well as significant national and local government positions.[8]

The Penlop of Trongsa controlled central and Bhutan; the rival Penlop of Paro controlled western Bhutan; and dzongpons controlled areas surrounding their respective dzongs. Eastern dzongpens were generally under the control of the Penlop of Trongsa, who was officially endowed with the power to appoint them in 1853.[4]: 106, 251  The Penlop of Paro, unlike Trongsa, was an office appointed by the Druk Desi's central government. Because western regions controlled by the Penlop of Paro contained lucrative trade routes, it became the object of competition among aristocratic families.[8]

Punakha Dzongpens

Punakha Dzong, administrative fortress of the Punabs

Below are the Dzongpens of Punakha, also called "Punab."

Punakha Dzongpens[9]: 154 
Number Name
1 Punab Pekar Rubgye
2 Punab Tenzin Drukda
3 Punab Druk Pelzang
4 Punab Tenpa Wangchuck
5 Punab Dalub Tobgye
6 Punab Dang Tashi
7 Punab Damchho Rinchhen
8 Punab Ngodub
9 Punab Phuntsho Dorji
10 Punab Thonglay
11 Punab Wangchuck
12 Punab Wangsha

Thimphu Dzongpens

Below are the Dzongpens of Thimphu, also called "Thimphub."

Simtokha Dzong, historical administrative center of Thimphu
Tashichho Dzong, administrative center of Thimphu
Thimphu Dzongpens[4]: 205 
Number Name
1 Thimphub Awu Tshering
2 Thimphub Norbu
3 Thimphub Ngwang Gyeltshen
4 Thimphub Tashi Dorji
5 Thimphub Druk Rubgye
6 Thimphub Sonam Drugyel
7 Thimphub Dondub
8 Thimphub Druk Phuntsho
9 Thimphub Druk Tenzin
10 Thimphub Chhoki Gyeltshen (Tshewang Rinchhen)[4]: 135, 251 [Thimphub 1]
11 Thimphub Uma Dewa (Sherub Tharchhin)[4]: 252 [Thimphub 2]
12 Thimphub Kasha
13 Thimphub Karma Drugyel
14 Thimphub Khasab Tobgye
15 Thimphub Kawang Manghkhel
16 Thimphub Lama Thewang
17 Thimphub Alu Dorji
18 Thimphub Kunzang Thinley
19 Thimphub Pema
20 Thimphub Kunzang Thinley[Thimphub 3]
  1. ^ Tshewang Rinchhen assassinated Druk Desi Wangchuck Gyalpo in 1851; the same year, Wangzob Chaap had Tshewang Rinchhen assassinated.
  2. ^ Uma Dewa (Sherub Tharchhin) was assassinated by Zimpon Dachung in 1857.
  3. ^ Second tenure. Father of First Queen Tsundue Pema Lhamo

Wangdue Dzongpens

Below are the Dzongpens of Wangdue Phodrang, also called "Wangzob."[2]: 132, 141  [4]: 86 

Wangdue Dzongpens[4]: 207 
Number Name
1 Wangzob Chhoje Namkha Rinchhen
2 Wangzob Gedun Chhophel
3 Wangzob Ngwang Tshering
4 Wangzob Druk Tenzin
5 Wangzob Sangye Tenzin
6 Wangzob Lepi Sherub
7 Wangzob Sonam Lhundup
8 Wangzob Sangay
9 Wangzob Kunga Gyeltshen
10 Wangzob Phuntsho Namgyel
11 Wangzob Dalub Tobgye
12 Wangzob Sigay
13 Wangzob Tenzin Namgyel
14 Wangzob Kawang Sangay
15 Wangzob Angdu
16 Wangzob Jigme Namgyel[Wangzob 1]
17 Wangzob Thinley Tobgye
18 Wangzob Ashang Jampa
19 Wangzob Kodu
20 Wangzob Domchu
  1. ^ Father of First King Ugyen Wangchuck

See also


  1. ^ Madan, P. L. (2004). Tibet, Saga of Indian Explorers (1864–1894). Manohar Publishers & Distributors. p. 77. ISBN 978-81-7304-567-7. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  2. ^ a b Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: White, J. Claude (1909). "Appendix I – The Laws of Bhutan". Sikhim & Bhutan: Twenty-One Years on the North-East Frontier, 1887–1908. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. pp. 11, 272–3, 301–10. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
  3. ^ Zetland (Marquis of), Lawrence John Lumley Dundas; Ronaldsha, E.; Asian Educational Services (2000). Lands of the thunderbolt: Sikhim, Chumbi & Bhutan. Asian Educational Services. p. 204. ISBN 978-81-206-1504-5. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Dorji, C. T. (1994). "Appendix III". History of Bhutan based on Buddhism. Sangay Xam, Prominent Publishers. p. 200. ISBN 978-81-86239-01-8. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  5. ^ a b Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. Worden, Robert L. (September 1991). Savada, Andrea Matles (ed.). Bhutan: A Country Study. Federal Research Division. Administrative Integration and Conflict with Tibet, 1651–1728.
  6. ^ Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. Worden, Robert L. (September 1991). Savada, Andrea Matles (ed.). Bhutan: A Country Study. Federal Research Division. Civil Conflict, 1728–72.
  7. ^ Crossette, Barbara (2011). So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas. Vintage Departures. Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 978-0-307-80190-6. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  8. ^ a b Gter-ston, Padma-gliṅ-pa; Harding, Sarah (2003). Harding, Sarah (ed.). The life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa. Snow Lion Publications. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-55939-194-8. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  9. ^ Dorji, C. T. (1995). A political & religious history of Bhutan, 1651-1906. Delhi, India: Sangay Xam; Prominent Publishers. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
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