The Chemshing (tree of rosary beads)

Chemshing or “rosary bead tree” is a tree species belonging to the genus Zizyphus under the Rhamnaceae family. Zizyphus species generally are hardy species which can tolerate drought and can grow in shallow and dry conditions. There are three chemshing (Zizyphus sp) trees growing in Shaba, Paro.

The species has a strong religious value/ significance attached to it. The fruit, particularly the inner stony seeds, are used as rosary beads by the Bhutanese people. The tree is very old that there is no documentation of its origin or plantation records.

Nonetheless, story from the local elders says that the relic tree existed since Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s time (1616). The famous iron chain bridge builder Dupthop Chazop, during his pilgrimage to Nepal (Belbu or Boudhanath temple) brought this famous Chemshing as his walking stick. Upon his arrival in Paro, he planted the walking stick at the present site to subdue the spirit that dwelled in that hill resembling a giant turtle.

During Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s era, Zhabi Duem, a post held by village headman equivalent to present day Gup(village headman), with the help of his village people collected beads (fruits) from the tree. The collected beads were sent to Paro Rinpung Dzong which was then sent to Zhabdrung at Thimphu. However, this system was lost gradually.

In early 2000, the Chemshing was put under strict protection using barbed wire fence and assigned seasonal caretaker by Paro Dzongkhang Administration. The beads were annually harvested by the Administration and sent to Thimphu.

By Phub Thinley, Sr. Forest Ranger

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