The history of Bhutan | The monarchy | Jigme Singye Wangchuck

Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king

Born in 1955, Jigme Singye Wangchuck already ascended the throne at the age of 17, because his father died very young. The formal, and very impressive, coronation took place two years later, on 2 June 1974, in the presence of not only the whole Bhutanese clergy and aristocracy, but also guests from all over the world.

As king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck did not want to leave his country anymore. Therefore, a teacher was asked to come from England so that the young ruler would, next to his traditional Buddhist education, also receive the input that would open his eyes onto the world beyond Bhutan's borders. This familiarity with both worlds forms the fourth monarch's politics: he aims at the socio-economic development of the country without neglecting the traditions of his forefathers and their cultural inheritance. In an interview with the »Financial Times« the king himself has once pointedly expressed the motto of his developmental politics: to him the »Gross National Happiness« is of more importance than the »Gross National Product«.


The path continued

In the cultural self-esteem and national identity of his subjects, the monarch recognises the possibility of Bhutan's survival as dwarf between its gigantic neighbours in the South and the North. A society built on religious values should be able to resist the threats and dangers of the process of globalisation.

Since 1961 five-year plans have guided the material growth, focusing on the construction of roads, communication, health care, education and agriculture. The financing of social infrastructures has so far mainly been carried by the international developmental cooperation. In order to become independent of such help, it is necessary to increase agricultural and industrial production, tourism and, most importantly, the use of the immense potential of water power. Since this can only be done by increasing the exploitation of nature, it will have to be protected more than in the past.

The state protection of nature is built on the Buddhist ethics and the indigenous institutions of the utilization of nature. The local understanding of the ecological systems is supported in the process of administrative decentralisation; the central administration intervenes only then when the intensity of the modern technology of exploitation overburdens the traditional way of dealing with nature. It lies with King Jigme Singye Wangchuck to continue this politics and lead his country into a new era.

The history of Bhutan
.  Bhutan before ..
.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  The monarchy
.  .  Jigme Namgyel
.  .  Ugyen Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Dorje Wangchuck
.  .  Jigme Singye Wangchuck
.  .  .  King and state
.  .  .  King and lama
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

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Throne cover (thrikheb), napped wool, cotton, silk embroidery; size: 130 cm x 130 cm; loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
The raised seats of secular and clerical rulers were covered by richly decorated cloths. A phoenix in the central medallion is alternately surrounded by four dragons and four kinnara, musicians with human upper bodies, wings and birds' legs. The four corners show garudas with tamed snake deities in their beaks. The cover is framed with swastika symbols which stand here for firmness and unalterability. They call upon the person on the throne to stay firmly in this world to guide the living beings to their release from the cycle of rebirths.

The fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was born on 11 November 1955, ascended the throne in 1972 and was crowned on 2 June 1974.