Tag Archives: Bhutan

Bhutan: the home of archery

3 November, 2017

In September, I visited Bhutan on behalf of World Archery, and found it one of the most bewitching places on the planet. I wrote a very long piece about archery culture there, which has been split into three parts.

The first part is about the country and Bhutanese traditional archery:


The second part is about the national Olympic team:


and the third is about how archery is infused into the culture of the region:


Enjoy, when you have a moment. There’s plenty of pics in the piece, here are some of the other photos I managed to take, when I wasn’t wielding World Archery’s video camera (look out for the results of that a little later :)).

Traditional bowman on the Changlimithang range, Thimphu. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Bhutanese bow weights range from 30 pounds to about 50. Your bow is usually as tall as you. © The Infinite Curve 2017

There’s a lot of this. As there should be. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Heavyweight Hoyt compounds are usually the order of the day. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Damn. I forgot my national dress. (What is British national dress anyway?). © The Infinite Curve 2017

This was a team from the Bhutan Broadcasting Corporation. One of them came over and wanted to talk about 4K cameras for a bit. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Prizes! © The Infinite Curve 2017

I mean, it kind of all looks like this. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Bhutan recurve represent (1) © The Infinite Curve 2017

Bhutan recurve represent (2) © The Infinite Curve 2017

Compound target at the Bhutan Archery Federation’s range. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Shooting rate ‘card’ at the Paro range. © The Infinite Curve 2017


Sitar Tshering, traditional bowyer and arrowsmith. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Image of the Bhutanese royal family. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Hoyt is a crazy big brand here. Like Superdry or something. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Scoreboard, Paro range. © The Infinite Curve 2017

just wow. © The Infinite Curve 2017

Watch the documentary ‘The Archers Of Bhutan’ here

You can read more about Bhutanese archery at the Yangphel Archery website

Bhutan: the first nation of archery

8 February, 2016

There was extraordinary news for the sport last month as the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan became the first nation in the world to institute a mandatory Olympic archery programme in every school. Kuensel reports:

All the schools in the country would initiate Olympic format archery programme with trained instructors by 2020… the long-term grassroots programme aims to build base for the Bhutanese archers in the recurve bow, the bow used in Olympics.

BAF’s General Secretary, Tsewang Rinchen, said SSIs, physical education teachers and games in-charge are being trained using a prototype of the recurve bow made from bamboo.

Since providing all the trainees with the actual bow was expensive for the federation, he said, a simplified version of the bow was made from bamboo and used for the training.

“On an average a recurve bow would cost Nu 100,000 ($1500) just for the body without any accessories,” said Tsewang Rinchen. “We have simplified and brought down the cost. We’ll further streamline the bow so that it will be easy for parents to make one for their kids.”

“We don’t have a programme promoting our own national game in schools, it’s ironic.”

Because of these limitations, he said the selection for the national team for international competitions are also done ad hoc.

“Through this programme we want to groom children from a very young age so that over the time we can produce quality archers and have a better chance against international counterparts,” added Tsewang Rinchen.

Famously, Bhutan is the only country in the world where archery is the national sport.  If you haven’t already, make sure to watch the documentary The Archers Of Bhutan, which I wrote about last year. This contrasts traditional archery (albeit often with compound bows) with the Olympic career of Tshering Choden.

Archery Way

A recent news article shows the continuing difficulties faced by full-time Olympic athletes in the country, with just a single Olympic field available. However, Bhutanese archers managed to snag four individual bronze medals and a team silver at the 2016 South Asian Games in Shillong, India  – a meet crushingly dominated by the host nation.


Bhutanese ladies recurve team, 2016 South Asian Games

As well as a trip to the World Championships in Copenhagen, Bhutan sent a squad to the Shanghai World Cup last year; their recurve archer Kinley Tshering had already made quite an impression at the 2014 Asian Games, using Brady Ellison’s old bow.

I’m hoping to go to Bhutan at some point in the next few years and see if this extraordinary idea bears any fruit. As the last nation on earth to introduce television hurtles towards modernity, who knows what could happen?

The Archers Of Bhutan

6 March, 2015


Just watched this documentary from the early 2000s about Bhutan featuring archer Tshering Choden, who competed for the Himalayan nation in the Olympics. It might be the only country in the world where archery is the national sport, but it takes serious dedication to be an archer in a region where the selection competition might be a terrifying 20-hour bus journey away.

Tshering, born on 1st January 1979, had an interesting Olympic career which you can read about here (no spoilers). The film also covers a traditional archery competition in a nation where literally every village has an archery field. Most archers compete hit-or-miss at a distance of about 145 meters (476 feet) – interestingly, the same standard distance as Korean traditional archery.

Archery, luck, tradition and religion are closely intertwined in Bhutan. I’m willing to bet your local county tournament doesn’t involve specially composed songs sung by everyone’s wives, ritual magic involving menstrual blood, or a ban on sex the night before. The star of the film is really the extraordinary country and its culture, poised on the precipice of modernity – although it’s reassuring to see that rude jokes and playing cards for cash are cultural universals, amongst much else. Enjoy.

FYI: this seems to be a re-voiceovered version of a German documentary called Die Bogenschützin von Bhutan (The Archer Of Bhutan) – with a barely-edited English translation, and the credits stripped off for some reason. Anyway, enjoy. 

More on Bhutanese archery: this article on the national championships from the New York Times in 2013.