THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY HONG KONG
Bhutan: Himalayan Mountain Kingdom
Dr. Francoise Pommaret
Thursday, 21 February 2008
3F, British Council, 3 Supreme Court Road
(please note that this venue is next to Pacific Place and 5 minutes from Admiralty MTR)
Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm
We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong a world expert on Bhutan, Dr. Fran�oise Pommaret, to lecture on this fascinating mountain shangrila. This is a repeat of Dr Pommaret's lecture in 2007 for those who were unable to attend, but contains plenty of new information for those who went to the previous lecture. Dr Pommaret is resident in Bhutan, working for the Royal University of Bhutan and lectures on the fascinating geography, culture and history of this beautiful country. The lecture has been arranged to coincide with the centenary of modern Bhutan, one hundred years after Sir Francis Younghusband, representing Edward VII, Emperor of India, made a local leader, Ugyen Wangchuck, a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire, which led to his adoption by the Bhutanese as their first King on 17 December 1907.
Situated in the eastern Himalayas, surrounded by powerful neighbours, Bhutan is, for many, a mythical country hidden in the mountains. Little populated with less than a million inhabitants in a country the size of Switzerland, it has an extraordinary charm and magic. The entire country is mountainous except for a small strip of subtropical plains in the extreme south which is intersected by valleys known as the Duars. The elevation gain from the subtropical plains to the glaciercovered Himalayan heights exceeds 7,000 metres (23,000 feet). Its traditional economy is based on forestry, animal husbandry and subsistence agriculture, but these account for less than 50% of GDP as Bhutan has become an important exporter of hydroelectricity.
Bhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the world and foreign influences and tourism are regulated by the government to preserve its traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture. Most Bhutanese follow either the Drukpa Kagyu or the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Bhutan is often described as the last surviving refuge of traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture and is linked historically and culturally with its northern neighbour Tibet, yet since the annexation of Tibet by China, the kingdom has drawn much closer to its southern neighbours.
This lecture gives a colourful, practical and academic introduction to the country, illustrated with many beautiful photographs. Dr Pommaret gives an indepth general introduction to the kingdom's history, culture and ecology, with a comprehensive geography of the country ranging from the towns to the remotest monasteries. She uses literary excerpts to add a historical perspective, tells of strange festivals including mud wrestling and traditional archery, gives insights into the cultural and spiritual heritage, cultural sites, and information on each region of the kingdom and its history and significance.
Fran�oise Pommaret is a Tibetologist, lecturer and writer, and has travelled extensively in Asia and particularly in Bhutan, where she has lived and worked intermittently since 1981. She was a research assistant in the Bhutan Tourism Corporation and then research assistant in history in the Department of Education, Royal Government of Bhutan. Now a research fellow at the CNRS (the French National Centre for Scientific Research) specialising in history and ethnology, she teaches the history and culture of the Himalayan regions at the School of Oriental Languages and Studies. She is resident in Bhutan working for the Royal University of Bhutan and continues to be very much involved with Bhutan in the fields of culture and education. Dr Pommaret has a degree in the history of art and in archaeology from the Sorbonne, where she also gained her doctorate. She speaks English and Dzongkha, and reads Tibetan. In addition to authoring numerous articles, she has published several books, including "Bhutan: Mountain Fortress of the Gods ", "Tibet: The Enduring Civilisation " and "Lhasa: The Capital of the Dalailamas ".
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend at HK$50 for Members and HK$100 for Members' guests and $150 for others.