The latest book dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo comes with a bang. It’s the colossal 368-page The Bodhisattva King: His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan put together by Tshering Tashi and Thierry Mathou (PhD). The hardback features 31 articles written by 28 people, both Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese, from various professional backgrounds.

Printed on premium quality paper, the colourful book is a veritable cornucopia of information on the life of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. The 11 long research articles and 19 short personal reflective pieces that form two parts of the book weave His Majesty’s reign and life into a complete tapestry. The stirring reflective pieces by a varied group of people such as His Majesty’s classmate, a Singaporean who has “always wanted to be blessed with an audience with His Majesty the Fourth King”, and a civil servant who has stumbled across His Majesty at Sangaygang come as the icing on the cake that is the more academic first part of the book.

Most articles present His Majesty in refreshingly new perspectives. Close examination of His Majesty’s policies, plans, and deeds in the areas such as democracy, culture, foreign policy, national sovereignty, environment, and Gross National Happiness portray His Majesty as a Bodhisattva King. All together, the articles underpin the selfless leadership and deeds of His Majesty that are consistent with the concept of Bodhisattva king or cakravartin (‘khor lo sgyur ba’i rgyal po).

The centrepiece of the book is a highly emotive and poignant reflective piece by Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck. It is a gem of an article, 18 and a half pages long. The moving piece on the birth, upbringing, and coronation of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo contains priceless memories that provide an insight into a loving mother, a dedicated queen, and an extraordinary king in the making.

A special tribute to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo by the Burmese opposition leader Daw Ang San Suu Kyi, who lived in Bhutan in 1972 with her author husband Michael Aris, is special. She writes, “That His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was not just an able ruler but also a warm and caring human being was brought home to me when Michael became ill with cancer in 1999; the Druk Gyalpo made arrangements for special prayers to be said in Bhutan for Michael’s health. I know this gave him much comfort during his last days.”

Besides some beautiful paintings that illustrate the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s auspicious and prophetic dreams, the book contains a number of rare royal photographs from the collection of Her Majesty Gyalyum Kesang Choeden Wangchuck. The photographs provide, for the first time, a glimpse into the royal household when His Majesty was growing up in the Dechencholing Palace. In one black-and-white photograph, His Majesty was only three days old.

Published by Bhutan Publishing House and edited by Anna Balikci Denjongpa, Alex McKay, and Kuenga Wangmo, the huge amount of information and rare pictures it contains, professional layout, and flawless print quality make The Bodhisattva King a collector’s item. It is edited well although the use of language and style could have been better harmonised.

Among a number of publications dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, The Bodhisattva King is the largest in terms of size and contents and most lavishly printed with the support of a number of companies.

Contributed by 

Needrup Zangpo

Editor, Druk Loter (writing, editing, translation consulting firm)