“Bhutan: Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon”
By John Leupold
Wed, Mar 18, 2pm
La Biblioteca, Reloj 50A
By John Leupold
The little known Kingdom of Bhutan is sometimes referred to as the last Shangri La. The country is located between India and Tibet in the Himalayan Mountains. Bhutan is one of the few countries never to be conquered or colonized, and existed in self-imposed isolation until 1960, without electricity, running water, automobiles, schools, hospitals, or currency. It was the Chinese invasion of neighboring Tibet that led the king to reevaluate this policy, and he and his son are largely responsible for Bhutan’s entry into the modern world. Bhutan made the decision to embrace the modern world and at the same time preserve its traditions, culture, and environment. The result has been a carefully thought out process whereby the kingdom adopted policies, ideas, and institutions deemed helpful to this process, while restricting mass tourism, foreign ownership of businesses and land, and sale of nonrenewable natural resources.
Bhutan today has roads, schools, hospitals, and all the conveniences found elsewhere in the world, and the country has managed to adopt these trapping of the modern world while preserving its culture. The population is educated thanks to free universal education, and all speak English (the official language) as it was the king’s decision to provide his citizens with a language that would enable them to communicate with the rest of the world. Bhutan has made the transition from a feudal society to a modern democracy smoothly and in a remarkably short span of time.
It was Bhutan’s Fourth King who introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness, for which the country is today perhaps best known. Bhutan is now a constitutional monarchy due to a stunning decision by the fourth King to voluntarily give up power and hold elections. An elected parliament and prime minister now rule Bhutan, though the king is revered throughout the country for his good deeds on behalf of the Bhutanese people. While Bhutan is both small and poor, it is extraordinarily blessed with beauty and gracious people, and feels both ancient and modern at the same time. Its unique history, culture, geography, and politics will be the subject of this program. Part-time San Miguel resident John Leupold, owner of Champaca Journeys, has made over 40 visits to Bhutan since 2007. He describes Bhutan as the most remarkable place he has ever visited and enjoys sharing his insights into Bhutan.