Discovering Happiness in Bhutan

Known as the “Kingdom of happiness” and the “last Shangri-la”, Bhutan has always had a special appeal for me. Now that it is part of my portfolio as Chinese ambassador to India, I am excited to have the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Thunder Dragon and look for Bhutanese answers to happiness.

From Paro to Thimpu, everywhere I went, I feasted my eyes on the breathtaking landscape: towering mountains, clear rivers, ancient temples and colorful prayer flags. Even the modern buildings, with a touch of the unique architectural features, fit in well with the pristine environment. Yes, Shangri-la would be the right description, I thought to myself.

Bhutan is open as much as it is traditional. Like people elsewhere, the Bhutanese people watch TV, shop online, and use Twitter and WeChat, yet at the same time, they still keep to their tradition and live a simple life, wearing the national dress Gho and Kira, enjoying the local songs and dances, and playing the national sport archery. Despite the hustle and bustle of the outside world, Bhutan has found its own pace and composure, and manged to strike a balance between tradition and modernity, not indulging in greed or disturbed by material desires.

The successive kings are all visionary and loved by the people. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo is no less than a legendary figure. It was him that introduced democracy to Bhutan and “invented” the world-renowned Gross National Happiness (GNH). Thanks to this people-oriented policy, Bhutanese people enjoy free health care from cradle to grave and free education from kindergarten to university. Basic necessities are guaranteed and not a single beggar or slum met our eyes.

My audience with His Majesty the Fifth King is a particularly unforgettable experience. Though only 35 years old, His Majesty has great wisdom, strategic far-sight and a sense of humor. He talked about his vision for Bhutan that calls for not only good governance, but also intelligent governance; a Bhutan with democracy, but not the kind of democracy blindly copied from other countries, and a Bhutan with development strategies that look beyond the short-term interests.

He also spoke of his admiration for China’s development and his commitment to advance China-Bhutan relations.

I was profoundly moved by his wise words and modesty.

In my extensive contacts with the Bhutanese people, what struck me most was the outpouring of friendship, not just towards us foreigners, but also among themselves. Whenever people meet, strangers and acquaintances alike, smile was always on the face. It seems that courtesy and politeness is in their DNA, and quarrel or fight is simply not in their dictionary.

For the Bhutanese people, religion is an important part of life. The mountains and valleys are dotted by temples. In Paro, I visited the famous Taktsang Monastery. Some 3120 meters above the sea level in a dramatic cliff setting, the Buddhist temple is majestic wonder.

As I watched countless believers making the long pilgrim in the rugged terrain up to the sacred temple, it dawned upon me that the further away you are from worldly desires, the closer you are to real happiness.

Indeed, the pursuit of happiness is a universal topic. Through the short visit to the Kingdom of Happiness, I’ve come to realize that happiness is neither unfathomable nor out of reach.

It is in the harmony of nature, the preservation of tradition, the kindness of people, the power of faith and peace of mind. Happiness is also a result of wise leadership and good governance, and a result of gratitude and contentment.

I wish the Bhutanese people greater happiness!

Contributed by  Mr Le Yucheng

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to India

5 replies
  1. logical
    logical says:

    HAPPINESS is TROPHY for politicians to seize and occupy by their order difficult for others with low life, subject for Scholars to study and mesmerize by their discipline unknown to others with low knowledge, goal for sincere seekers to struggle and find it the way any of their compatriot ever found… story to the kids requiring them to deviate from material toys to the fairy land, and rules for compliance of common folks to follow feeling SAFE and HAPPY in doing them.

    Our HAPPINESS officially is the result of LUCK, the guidance of VISIONARY LEADERS and protection of LOCAL deities… It is UNIQUE to Bhutan and Bhutanese that may only be DISCOVERED and not AVAILED by outsiders. It is COPY PROOF as they cannot agree to depend on our national order of LUCK, VISIONARY LEADERS, and PROTECTING DEITIES availed by the medium of CULTURE (our dress, food, language, religion, customs…)
    Is that more than what the offspring of the ancestors of the custodians of our institutional order availed for their welfare under your watch till a generation ago, O nobleman.

  2. Development practitioner
    Development practitioner says:

    Your Excellency, thank you for your kind words. I had the opportunity to work in China and visit many places from Mogao Grottoes (Dunhuang, Gansu), to Leshan Buddha (Sichuan), to Sangrila (Yunnan), and was fortunate to witness in person Beijing Olympics, 60th Anniversary of the PRC celebration and Expo 2010 in Shanghai. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting those magnificent places and watching the once-in-a-life-time events.

    Excellency, you represent the second largest economy of the world but I represent no one, only myself. People will read in-between the lines, words and even alphabets when you write/say something, but may not find worth a glance when I write few lines. We are tiny but our hearts are big. I am not diplomat and do not know how to be diplomatic. I do not know how many Bhutanese would be able to turn your kind words into their cause for neighbourly comfort. We are not sure if “Discovering Happiness in Bhutan” will eventually tag us along to “one belt, one road” footsteps or just “weighing” cost and privileges of AIIB membership will haul us towards “pivot to India and rest of the region” footprints. Does it have to be either/or?

    Then I wonder if it is correct to be trapped by a 17th century European concept that emphasized on “sovereignty-centric” governance when we have created by now a small, dense, and interdependent world. If major Asian countries ignore the great historical opportunities for doing good to the human kind and instead focus only on “sovereignty”, the only question that the rest of the world will ask as they watch us is: “What’s wrong with these Asians? Can they think?” I hope we will be able to say to the world that the Asians can think. Your Excellency, we, the Bhutanese, are and will then be proud to be part of Asia situated on southern slope of the Tibetan Plateau and north-east of Indian Subcontinent!

  3. Topaz
    Topaz says:

    Your Excellency said “Bhutan has always had a special appeal for me. Now that it is part of my portfolio as Chinese ambassador to India, I am excited to have the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Thunder Dragon and look for Bhutanese answers to happiness”.

    Yes, we welcome Your Excellency with respect and great admiration for all times to come. It would be a fitting tribute if Your Excellency take this opportunity as a Country Diplomat and further the relation between the two countries. There is so much to gain and benefit mutually as a neighbor and a country with similar culture and traditions. We would like to hear and also see the two countries implementing many areas of mutual co-operation in the years ahead. Tashi Delek!

  4. Nar Rai
    Nar Rai says:

    This is a great step of diplomatic tie with our giant neighbour China….today China is the most powerful nation and also very BIG economy and is the largest economy in the world today after USA. Our PM is on right direction at right time. I hope that Bhutan and China can be very friendly states that mutually benefits to both countries. I wish our friendship a durable and very positive in all ways to come. We are so impressed by the Ambassador’s positive views of our nation…thank you Sir.

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