Enter Dragon King

The narratives of kings and queens and their systems of monarchy are rarely linked with goodness, except in fairy tales and myths. However, that is not the case in the world’s last Mahayana-practicing Buddhist kingdom. In Bhutan, kings are revered and loved deeply because they have proven to be genuine leaders whose sacrifices and contributions are monumentally present; everywhere. The fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, often called the druk gyalpo, meaning the dragon king is no ordinary monarch. At 17, Jigme became the world’s youngest monarch. He took on a country that was monumentally poor, underdeveloped, and isolated from the outside world for generations.

Between the time he became king and the country first received internet in ‘99, so much had happened: schools, hospitals, and roads were developed, making citizens more self-reliant and independent. The hydro-electricity industry was already producing thousands of jobs, contributing greatly to the national income. But none of that beats when His Majesty declared that Gross National Happiness is more important that Gross Domestic Product.

Under that ideology, the constitution of Bhutan stated that 62% of Bhutan must remain in forest coverage for all times to come. The king, visionary, selfless, and people serving as he was, very early on understood the need to balance modernity whilst still preserving ancient cultural heritage and traditions. For that reason, the Bhutanese government began to follow a “high value and low impact” tourism policy that only allows genuine travelers to visit the country by making the cost of visiting Bhutan above average compared to neighboring countries such as Nepal.

Today, nine years after he stepped down, and democracy arrived, the country seems to have done pretty well for itself in a world that is now facing constant instability and political turmoil.