January 21, 2013

In 1616, Ngawang Namgyal, became shabdrung — At Whose Feet One Submits — the leader of Bhutan.



"Considered the first great historical figure of Bhutan" today's "History of" country.
He promulgated a code of law and built a network of impregnable dzong, a system that helped bring local lords under centralized control and strengthened the country against Tibetan invasions....

Circa 1627, during the first war with Tibet, Portuguese Jesuits Estêvão Cacella and João Cabral were the first recorded Europeans to visit Bhutan on their way to Tibet. They met with Ngawang Namgyal, presented him with firearms, gunpowder and a telescope, and offered him their services in the war against Tibet, but the shabdrung declined the offer....
The legal code, called Tsa Yig, was based on "duties and virtues inherent in the Buddhist dharma" and "remained in force until the 1960s."

25 comments:

Maguro said...

They called him Long Dzong Silver.

edutcher said...

Interesting he was offered firearms and gunpowder.

You'd think it would have been the other way around.

PS I thought the whole idea of dzongs was that they were pregnable.

madAsHell said...

I'm gonna party until I shabdrung!!

Broomhandle said...

"Impregnable Dzong". Best thing on the Internet I've read today. Heck, all month.

ricpic said...

Christ is lean, the Buddha is fat,
Imagine magine magine that;
If Christ was fat, the Buddha lean,
There'd be no place for Mr. Clean.

YoungHegelian said...

What's really sad about much of SE Asia is that we have no written history of many of these peoples until the Europeans show up, aside from mentions of their relations with the Chinese imperial courts, which the Chinese maintained in great detail.

As we are the cultural children of the ancient Greeks, who gave us Herodotus & Thucydides, we think that every culture "does" history.

Not so. Not so at all. Even great empires like the Cambodian Khmer didn't write their own histories.

Hagar said...

If Bhutan was never "conquered," why is he depicted as a Mongol Chinese emperor?

MadisonMan said...

When I was in grad school, we played soccer weekly, a pick-up game, where the McClain center is now, and one of the players was from Bhutan.

He never got tired from running.

I miss that field.

Irene said...

Bhutan made The New York Times's recent list of "The 46 Places to Go in 2013."

Ann Althouse said...

"the Buddha is fat"

No, he isn't.

ironrailsironweights said...

Flying into Paro Airport, which serves the capital of Thimbu, is extremely challenging due to surrounding mountain peaks. Pilots must have special training and certification in order to fly into the airport.

Peter

edutcher said...

I was not aware of that, Hegelian.

Thanks, quite interesting.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Sonny boy, if you study hard and eat all of your vegetables, you too can be shabdrung.

Palladian said...

"the Buddha is fat"

No, he isn't.


All beings possess Buddha nature within them, Althouse. Buddha is fat and skinny. Buddha is all things.

Methadras said...

Yup, the 60's fucked all that up.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

ironrailsironweights said...

Flying into Paro Airport, which serves the capital of Thimbu, is extremely challenging due to surrounding mountain peaks. Pilots must have special training and certification in order to fly into the airport.


The decreased lift in the thin air at 7,656 feet adds extra spice.

sydney said...

In 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the throne at age 20. He emphasized modern education, decentralization of governance, the development of hydroelectricity and tourism and improvements in rural developments. He was perhaps best known internationally for his overarching development philosophy of "gross national happiness."

I wonder how that's going. How do you measure happiness?

Michael said...

A departed friend of mine went to Oxford with the son of the ruler of Bhutan during the second world war. After the war my friend traveled there as one of the first westerners and met the ruler. He struck a deal with the kingdom to produce their stamps for them. Beautiful stamps with odd shapes and having mainly numismatic value since most of the people in the country neither sent nor received mail. Burton Todd. Very old school.

furious_a said...

Different country, but Court Mandarin for "Ambassador" translated to "Tribute Bearer".

Snooty bunch, the Middle Kingdom.

Mitch H. said...

The Himalayan region is one part of the world I'm not particularly familiar with. So, Bhutan is a theocratic remnant, right? The fringes occupied by hold-outs from the takeover of Tibet by the flavor of tantric Buddhism represented by the Dalai Lama, in the same sort of relationship as Switzerland related historically to Hapsburg Austria, I guess. There's bits and pieces in that "history of" which talks about Bhutanese outposts in Jammu and Kashmir on the far side of the Himalayas, and lots of fighting with the kingdoms and provinces to the south and with Tibet to the north. Strangely, almost no mention of Nepal, although it's in between the western outposts and Bhutan proper. An examination of the current "history of Nepal" likewise shows *no* interaction. As such, I guess, Bhutan was almost exclusively a cisalpine polity, with no interaction with the Nepalese?

Looking at the geography of the region, it appears as if Bhutan and Nepal are in completely different drainage watersheds, with Bhutan sitting in a remote chunk of the eastern Himalaya surrounded on all sides by the Brahmaputra mesopotamia. Since their main access is to Tibet in the north and the various east Indian principalities in the south, they had little cultural or physical contact with the mostly Hindu Nepal region, and thus got to their western Jammu and Kashmir outposts via Tibet proper. Thus, again, Bhutan as a remnant or fossil of pre-Gelugpa Tibet. Like many such remnants, it lies in a mountainous refuge nearby a significant cultural or political crossroads, in this case, the greater Brahmaputra valley.

Surprising to not see much reference to the country as a source of human export, which is unusual for these sorts of mountain polities. Might be an artifact of wiki politics, or it might have something to do with monastic cultural pressure against the usual problems of mountain-people overpopulation and limited local resources.

Shana said...

Isn't Bhutan they place where the head honchow or priests wear ginat ceremonial phallic hats? Every home has a phallic carving to greet guests as well. Wouldn't want them to feel unwelcome.

Shana said...

http://www.keystobhutan.com/bhutan/bhutan_art_phallus.php

MikeinAppalachia said...

I've been to Bhutan twice on missions for hydropower evaluations. Flying into Paro is interesting. Last time, it took 4 approaches to land. Nice place, good people. Kind of Nepal without the slums and Maoist rebels. Very few leave as the hydro sales to India pretty much fund the national budget. The current King has said that he's not concerned with GDP as much as the "happiness" index. And that appears to be pretty high. Growing enclaves of German and Scandinavian retirees. Some problems with Chinese encursions alone the Northern border, but India provides some security forces. Great place to visit if you are into Mountains.

MikeinAppalachia said...

I've been to Bhutan twice on missions for hydropower evaluations. Flying into Paro is interesting. Last time, it took 4 approaches to land. Nice place, good people. Kind of Nepal without the slums and Maoist rebels. Very few leave as the hydro sales to India pretty much fund the national budget. The current King has said that he's not concerned with GDP as much as the "happiness" index. And that appears to be pretty high. Growing enclaves of German and Scandinavian retirees. Some problems with Chinese encursions alone the Northern border, but India provides some security forces. Great place to visit if you are into Mountains.

Shana said...

Posting from my mobile never works out well for me.