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Lecture Explains Bhutan’s Thoughtful Entry into the Modern World


By John Leupold

The little-known Kingdom of Bhutan, located between India and Tibet in the Himalayan Mountains, is sometimes referred to as the last Shangri-la. One of the world’s few countries never to be conquered or colonized, Bhutan existed in self-imposed isolation without electricity, running water, automobiles, schools, hospitals, or currency until 1960, when China invaded neighboring Tibet.

This act made Bhutan’s king reevaluate his nation’s isolationist policy. He and his son are largely responsible for the country’s decision to embrace the modern world and at the same time preserve Bhutan’s 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 the sale of nonrenewable natural resources.

Come learn about Bhutan’s unique history in this talk at the Biblioteca on May 23. While Bhutan is both small and poor, it is extraordinarily blessed with beauty and gracious people. It feels both ancient and modern at the same time. Its unique history, culture, geography, and politics will be the subject of this program.

Bhutan has all the trapping of the modern world, but not at the expense of its traditional culture. The population is educated thanks to free universal education, and its people speak English as their official language thanks to its king’s decision to provide citizens with a language that would enable them to communicate with the world. Bhutan has made the transition from a feudal society to a modern democracy smoothly and in a remarkably short span of time. Bhutan’s Fourth King introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness, for which the country is today perhaps best known.

Currently a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and prime minister, Bhutan got that way after a stunning decision by the Fourth King to voluntarily give up power and hold elections. For this and his good deeds on behalf of the Bhutanese people, the king is revered throughout the country.

Speaker John Leupold, owner of Champaca Journeys, is a part-time San Miguel resident who has made 37 visits to Bhutan since 2007.



“Bhutan: Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon”

John Leupold

Thu, May 23, 3pm

Sala Quetzal

La Biblioteca, Reloj 50A



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