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不丹:幸福的秘境 Bhutan:Hidden Lands of Happiness

Once upon a time in a country far, far away lived a most unusual king who 1)proclaimed that in his tiny Himalayan kingdom, "2)Gross national happiness is more important than gross national product." Although most of us 3)give lip service to the 4)cliché, "Money can’t buy you happiness," in our hearts we believe a big pile of cash can make a sizable 5)down payment and put smiles on our faces. To us, if a country’s economic development isn’t measured in dollars, it doesn’t make sense. So the story of Bhutan sounds like a fairy tale.


Even Bhutan’s nicknames—Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Kingdom in the Clouds, the last Shangri-la—6)evoke a fantasyland. I’ve come here for a 7)reality check, to 8)immerse myself in Bhutanese culture, to see if fairy tales do come true and people can live happily ever after.

It’s not Sunday, but I’m in church, or rather, a Buddhist temple inside our hotel in the city of Paro. The monk is 9)conducting a 10)ceremony, offering us blessings for a safe journey and giving us packages of prayer flags to take along. Their 11)significance becomes clear a couple of days later when I arrive at Dochula Pass just above 10,000 feet on a fog-12)shrouded, narrow, no-shoulder highway. Religion isn’t just "A Sunday Kind of Love注" for the Bhutanese. Buddhism is part of daily life, the foundation of the culture.

13)Isolation from the outside world used to 14)shelter Bhutan’s unique culture, but that’s changing. A 94-year-old local tells me, "When I was younger, I kept hearing stories about big powerful machines called trains that could carry people quickly over long distances. I wanted to see one for myself, so I walked six days to the Indian 15)border. There I 16)hitched a ride on a truck, which was the first motorized 17)vehicle I’d ever seen, and rode ten hours to see my first train."

Bhutan still doesn’t have its own trains, but in 1962 it got its first road and in 1983 its first (and only) international airport. Now I’m one of only about 25,000 tourists who find their way here each year. Far greater outside influence arrives 18)via satellites and computers thanks to King Jigme Singye Wangchuck—the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan—having lifted the ban on television and the Internet in 1999. Will this new technology "bring good things to life," as the TV 19)commercial goes? I can only report that for the half hour I spent watching people watch TV, the crowd was 20)mesmerized by the latest episode of Bhutanese Idol.

Traveling the country, I visit the village of Kingathang, where a local farmer invites me to try some fresh- 21)brewed arra, the local 22)spirit. He gives me a tour of his home and introduces me to the 12 family members, covering four generations, who live together under one roof. It is a scene I will see repeated again and again—old caring for young, young helping old, and all regarding it as the natural order. While visiting people in their homes, I also visit 23)monasteries and temples to try to understand the philosophy that shapes the culture and inspires the national policy of Gross National Happiness.

I save the best temple for last, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, 24)nestled 10,200 feet high on the side of a cliff. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche, who is 25)credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan, was carried here on the back of a flying tigress. The monastery followed in 1692, built to mark one of the most holy sites in Bhutan. Fortunately, given today’s shortage of flying tigresses, I can follow a foot 26)trail to the top. I planned to ask a monk some grand question about the meaning of life. Instead, once I arrived I had more pressing 27)concerns and simply requested a new set of knees so I could make it back down the mountain. I’m not sure I gained any 28)insights into the secret of Gross National Happiness up here, despite the great view.

Who knows whether the people in the faraway Kingdom of Bhutan will live happily ever after, but for now it’s official government 29)policy to 30)foster that goal. And according to people who measure such things, the Bhutanese are in fact the happiest people in Asia and among the happiest in the world. My advice: See this country before it changes. There aren’t many places like it. Some of the 31)contentment here may be 32)contagious. A bit of it even 33)rubbed off on a 34)cynic like me—at least for the time I was in Bhutan.












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