Kingdom of Bhutan on CNN Wonderlist
Wed 30 November 2016
, by CNN Bill Weir
(CNN) — Pretend you're a king.
Pretend that you reign over the Land of the Thunder Dragon, a happy little nation high in the highest mountains, cut off from the wars and worries of the modern world.
You are a nice king. You do your best to improve the lives of your subjects, one road, school and hospital at a time. Instead of gross national product, you measure your country's success in gross national happiness, and your subjects love you dearly.
On "The Wonder List," Bill Weir goes high into the Himalayas to Bhutan. There he finds breathtaking views of a country at risk of change.
But one day, you decide you don't want to be a powerful king anymore. Because you believe there shouldn't be powerful kings anymore.
"Democracy?" your subjects wail. "A constitution? What the hell are those? We don't want to vote! We want you to take care of us! You're smarter than us! You're kinder than us! You know what we need to stay happy forever!"
You're the king. What do you do? What kind of society do you build?
These are the questions that sent me scrambling into the Himalayas for "The Wonder List," because this is not a fairy tale. It is the story of Bhutan.
Inspired by a 1,200-year-old Bhutanese prophecy, the recently completed Thimphu Buddha is one of the largest sitting Buddhas in the world. Bhutan is the world's last independent Buddhist kingdom.
While America has been wrestling with democracy for 240 years, this little land sandwiched between India and China just learned to vote in 2008.
That's when Jigme Singye Wanchuck stepped off the Golden Throne and gave the Raven Crown to his eldest son and his power to the people.