Journal of Bhutan Studies Volume. 2 Number 2, Winter 2000

1. Dorje Lingpa and His Rediscovery of the “Gold Needle” in Bhutan by Samten G. Karmay

Among the Buddhist ritual traditions that are still preserved and carried out as the central religious constituents of the annual festivals in Bhutan today those of Dorje Lingpa (1346-1405) stand out strikingly. This is particularly so in Bumthang area, Central Bhutan.

Dorje Lingpa is considered as one of the five great “treasure revealers” (tertön) among the Nyingmapa and an important Dzogchen master by the Bonpo tradition. He was thus an exceptional figure who clearly adopted an impartial approach to both Buddhist practices and the Bon, the non-Buddhist religious tradition in Tibet, in his spiritual quest. His approach therefore made him the precursor of what is later known as the “eclectic” (rime) movement of the nineteenth century (Smith 1970).

2. Population and Governance in mid-18th Century Bhutan, as Revealed in the Enthronement Record of Thugs-sprul ’Jigs med grags pa I (1725-1761) by John Ardussi and Karma Ura

This paper is a preliminary analysis of the first census of Bhutan’s population and economy, which was used as the basis for computing the distribution of gifts to state officials, monks and ordinary citizens in celebration of the 1747 enthronement of Zhabdrung Jigme Dragpa I (1725-1761) as religious head of state who was the first of the Mind incarnations (thugs sprul) of Ngawang Namgyal, founder of the modern Bhutan state, to be installed in this role.

The authors review the governing hierarchy and  has done a brief analysis of the population data and highlight some of the document’s special terminology, and suggest interpretations of certain data peculiarities.

3. The Monetisation of Bhutan by Nicholas Rhodes

The objective of this paper is to describe how Bhutanese society has become monetised over the years, at first very slowly, but rapidly during the last half century. I will briefly comment on the effect that monetisation has had on Bhutanese Society, and the potential conflict that exists between traditional values in Bhutan, which are largely non-monetary based, and so-called “modern” values, which are almost entirely money oriented.

4. On the Two Ways of Learning in Bhutan by Karma Phuntsho

Having involved in both traditional and modern systems of learning and scholarship, the author presents a case study of the encounter of the two systems of education – traditional and modern – in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The author argues that  all the changes and developments that the Kingdom of Bhutan saw in the last half of the twentieth century, the ones in education are the most evident, momentous and far-reaching. The introduction of modern education toward the end of the 1950s opened a new chapter in the history of learning and scholarship in Bhutan,  the rate of literacy increasing by leaps and bounds since 1959, affecting all sections of society.

5. Recent Bhutanese Scholarship in History and Anthropology by Francoise Pommaret

This paper presents the recent scholarship on Bhutan by the Bhutanese themselves and shows that the studies of these scholars are the offsprings of a long tradition of Bhutanese scholarship but that they also demonstrate new trends, which are in tune with the socio-cultural changes in the country.

Largely bibliographical, this paper also fully indicates the recent Bhutanese publications to interested researchers. The mentions of publications, which are often too unknown outside Bhutan because of problems of distribution, therefore aim at broadening the scientific knowledge of Bhutan on specific subjects.

6. From Living to Propelling Monument: the Monastery- Fortress (dzong) as Vehicle of Cultural Transfer in Contemporary Bhutan by Marc Dujardin

The object of study concerns Bhutan’s state-religious architecture, embodied by the monastery-fortress or dzong. Designated as Bhutan’s architectural tour de force, the monastery-fortress exhibits the very best of what this particular dwelling culture can achieve at a specific time juncture. To a large extent it is the majestic and monumental character that provides the monastery-fortress with its predicate of Bhutan’s architectural frontispiece. The issue at stake here, however, is not prompted by typological nor aesthetic concerns. The monastery- fortress not only exemplifies the endurance of a ‘lived’ medieval concept; it represents Bhutan’s archetype of public, political and collective architecture. Apart from the two primary functions it is traditionally associated with in Bhutan, i.e. a political and religious one, the monastery-fortress may well be approached as a ‘propelling monument, a culture magnet and vehicle of cultural transfer in contemporary Bhutan. To explore the ‘identity’ and ‘dynamics’ of Bhutan’s state-religious architecture over a longer period of time going back as far as 1783, the built history of some historically important monastery-fortresses will be reconstructed. By studying the practice of demolition and reconstruction associated with the monastery-fortress of Bhutan’s old winter capital Punakha, the identification and interpretation of some factors that enable the Bhutanese to organize the cultural transfer they need to further their quest for national identity and cultural uniqueness will be discussed.

7. Signs of the Degenerate Age: the Desecration of Chorten and Lhakhang in Bhutan by Richard W. Whitecross

According to the official figures issued in July 1999, 136 lhakhang and 1,132 chorten had been subject to theft, arson, desecration and their caretakers attacked and murdered. The thefts and the desecrations were a recurrent topic which fuelled discussion, and at times, disagreement. Arguably, they serve as a metaphor for the changes and the problems facing contemporary Bhutan.

8. Continuing Customs of Negotiation and Contestation in Bhutan by Adam Pain and Deki Pema

A concern for the maintenance of traditional values and customs in the processes of modernisation within Bhutan is evident in much of Bhutan’s official documentation. The fundamental importance given to the maintenance and fostering of Buddhism, its beliefs and associated institutions reflected in Bhutan’s rich culture, is constantly returned to and emphasized in commentary. Thus the establishment of the Special Commission for Cultural Affairs in 1985 “is seen as a reflection of the great importance placed upon the preservation of the country’s unique and distinct religious and cultural traditions and values, expressed in the customs, manners, language, dress, arts and crafts which collectively define Bhutan’s national identity” (Ministry of Planning, 1996, p.193). Equally the publication of a manual on Bhutanese Etiquette (Driglam Namzhag) by the National Library of Bhutan was hopeful that it “would serve as a significant foundation in the process of cultural preservation and cultural synthesis” (Publishers Forward, National Library, 1999).

9. The Politics of Bhutan: Change in Continuity  by Thierry Mathou

This paper is a tentative presentation of the normative architecture of the current Bhutanese polity. It identifies a hierarchy of principles and patterns, which have guided simultaneously the preservation of the traditional system and its adaptation to modern constraints. The main challenges are also described in order to assess the viability of the monarchy as the principal agent of change.