Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Real Ruler Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck Plays Basketball, Lives in a Log Cabin

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Real Ruler Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck Plays Basketball, Lives in a Log Cabin

Article excerpt

When this nation's monarch next holds court, he may be wearing sneakers.

Husband to four beautiful women (all sisters), a knowledgeable fan of the National Basketball Association and occupant of a hillside log cabin, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, leader of the last surviving Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, is no ordinary absolute ruler.

"For power to be in the hands of one individual, as well as the future of our country, is not safe," stresses this sovereign, who is determined to get his 600,000 subjects to take a more active role in forging his nation's destiny.

The fourth member of Bhutan's line of Wangchuck kings, Jigme Singye will turn 40 on Nov. 11. Like the Meiji Emperor of Japan in the 19th century, he is trying to lead a poor, backward country into the mainstream of modern life but also to safeguard its culture.

In an era where bluebloods are better known for high-rolling lifestyles or scandalous romantic indiscretions, this earnest, pleasant-mannered man who reigns over a landlocked kingdom slightly larger than Switzerland seems like an anachronism.

Being king, he said, "is like taking an examination that never ends. Except you don't have the right to fail."

At 5 feet, 9 inches, Bhutan's ruler may be the world's only king who is an avid basketball fan. Until last year, he played shooting guard with students and members of Bhutan's small army.

For some people in this verdant, mountainous land between China and India where shamanistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism run deep, the king is a god. Asked his reaction, Bhutan's ruler smiles as he replies, "I am not a deity."

He is, however, convinced that monarchy provides the style of governance best suited to his small, underdeveloped country, which remained isolated from the rest of the world until the early 1960s.

"If you look at Africa, Latin America and unfortunately our own region, South Asia, you see the Western political system and parliamentary democracy have not been all that successful there," he says.

Bhutan's sovereign frequently crisscrosses his realm in a dark blue Toyota Land Cruiser, stopping to hear the complaints and petitions of his subjects. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.