In 1972, at the young age of sixteen, Jigme Singye Wangchuck became the fourth king of the mountain country of Bhutan. Nestled in the high Himalayas, Bhutan is a landlocked country about the size of Switzerland (or a bit larger than Maryland). It sits north of India, south of China, and on the way to nowhere.
The British left India in 1947, but two centuries of their rule still marked the region, and the once and future king had been sent away to English schools in Darjeeling, India, and then in London. He came back to Bhutan as a teen to learn about his future kingdom, which at the time had fewer than a half million people. Most lived in remote fertile valleys in the south. In the vertiginous and steep mountains of the north, the few inhabitants tended herds of sheep and yak. Isolated geographically and culturally—television was banned until 1999—Bhutan was an unlikely venue for a bold experiment.
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