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.
1. The House of ‘obs-mtsho – the History of a Bhutanese Gentry Family from the 13th to the 20th Century by John A. Ardussi
One of the most important threads of ongoing research in Bhutanese history is the documentation of the origin and historical interrelationships among its regional elite families. For most of its history, Bhutan has been characterized by relatively decentralized government, a geographically complex land of fragmented ecosystems in which such families shared habitat and competed for local dominance (the term “ruled” is probably too strong a generalization). The ’Brug-pa theocracy which began during the 17th century was the first successful attempt to impose national unity upon a constellation of local self-governing units of great variety, which in some cases trace their ancestry back as far as the 8th century AD. Even under the Zhabs-drung Rin-po-che and his successors, local elite families strongly influenced the direction of state policies.
2. Ancient Trade Partners: Bhutan, Cooch Bihar and Assam (17th-19th centuries) by
Western writers have often projected the image of Bhutan as an isolated country, a kind of autarchic mountainous island. This article is an attempt to show that, in fact, Bhutan carried out a substantial trade with her southern neighbours – Bengal (Cooch Bihar) and Assam (Kamrup) – at least from the 17th century, if not earlier. This trade is documented in British reports and Bhutanese historical sources, although for the latter, references have been found dispersed in biographies. Bhutan also appears to have been influenced by the weaving and silk techniques of north-east India. Because of trade links and the fact that Cooch Bihar minted money for Bhutan, the latter was able to play a political role in Cooch Bihar until this region was taken over by the British in 1773. From that date, Bhutan was pressed by the British to open her roads to traders, as it was the shortest route to Tibet and Lhasa. However, Bhutan resisted but continued trading in North Bengal and Assam, selling horses, wool products, and musk, while importing cotton cloth, broadcloth, tools, spices and tobacco.
3. Change in the Land Use System in Bhutan: Ecology, History, Culture, and Power by Tashi Wangchuk
This paper argues that in Bhutan, historically the land has been in most part held private, though the popular held view is that it was a feudal tenancy mode.
4. Economy of Yak Herders by Pema Gyamtsho
It is widely accepted that an understanding of the environmental and socio-economic conditions of an area is a prerequisite for the identification and formulation of appropriate research and development strategies. It is important to know ‘why people do what they do’ especially in traditional societies which have remained relatively unchanged by the forces of modern technological advancement.
5. A Brief History of Tango Monastery by Tshenyid Lopen Kuenleg
Generally speaking, this kingdom of the Sandalwood Valley is the second Copper-coloured celestial palace or the hidden holy land of the Second Buddha Guru Padmasambhava. Through the miraculous powers of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the earth and all the rocks, stones, hills and mountains are manifested in the form of tutelary deities, both peaceful and wrathful, indicating how the sentient beings were subjugated and protected. Likewise, this is the place where the Compassionate Universal King Avalokitesvara revealed Himself in the self-emanated form of the Wrathful Hayagriva. Therefore, this is the holy place for retreats, the Siddhidhara, which was blessed by Guru Padmasambhava.
6. Consecration of New Ka-gong-phur-sum Lhangkhang in Kurjey, Bumthang by H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche by Anonymous
The main consecration of the new Kurjey Temple was held on the 15 Day of the Fourth Month of the Wood Horse Year in the 17th Rabjung corresponding to June 8, 1990, which coincided with the anniversary of Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and Mahaparnirvana. The consecration ceremony was performed by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Trulkus and monks of Tongsa, Tharpaling, Nyimalung and Shechan Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche at Boudhnath, Nepal. His Majesty The King, Her Majesty The Queen Mother, Their Majesties The Queens, Their Royal Highnesses The Princes and Princesses, senior monks from the Central Monastic Body and officials of the Royal Government attended the consecration and offered prayers.
In this issue:
1. Father Estevao Cacella’s Report on Bhutan in 1627 by Luiza Maria Baille
The article introduces a translation of the account written in 1627 by the Jesuit priest Father Estevao Cacella, of his journey with his companion Father Joao Cabral, first through Bengal and then through Bhutan where they stayed for nearly eight months. The report is significant because the Fathers were the first Westerners to visit and describe Bhutan. More important, the report gives a first-hand account of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Founder of Bhutan.
2. Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye and the Founding of Taktsang Lhakhang by John A. Ardussi
It is a translation of the portion of the biography of the 4th Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgye (1638 – 96) which describes his visit to the sacred cave of Taktsang Pelphug during the Tshechu season of 1692, and his founding there of the temple devoted to Padma Sambhava known as Gu-ru mTshan-brgyad Lha- khang – ‘The Temple of the Guru with Eight Names.’
3. The Rapprochment between Bhutan and Tiber under the Enlightened rule of rDe-srid XIII Shes-rab-dbang-phug (r. 1774-63) by John A. Ardussi
The story is by now well known, of how a dispute over recognition of the legitimate rebirth of Kun-mkhyen Padma- dkar-po led to its split into a Northern and Southern branch, and to the founding of an independent ’Brug-pa state in Bhutan. The struggle, whose seeds were sown during the 15th century, pitted the claimants for supremacy by reincarnation against the supporters of the traditional pattern of “uncle – nephew” succession, and culminated in the flight to Bhutan in 1616 of the man who founded the modern state, Zhabs-drung Rin-po-che Ngag-dbang-rnam-rgyal (1594- ?1651)
4. Coinage in Bhutan by Nicholas Rhodes
In Thimphu, and elsewhere in Western Bhutan, it is still possible to find many examples of the old copper coins, known as Matam, Chetam and Zangtam. Old silver coins can also be found, although less frequently. Very little, however, has been written about the background to these coins – who made them, where and when, and how they were used. The purpose of this article is to set out what I know about these old Bhutanese coins, not only to present the information more widely, but also in the hope that there will be people in Bhutan who will be encouraged to provide additional evidence from oral tradition, written records, or from any other sources. Elderly people may still be alive who remember such coins being struck, but unless their memories are recorded soon, the information will be lost forever.
5. Bhutan: Political Reform in a Buddhist Monarchy by Thierry Mathou