Arts Exhibition: Bhutan: Gross National Happiness

When: Feb 25 2018 (All day) until May 27 2018 (All day)
Where: East-West Center Gallery, John A. Burns Hall, 1601 East-West Road

The East-West Center Arts Program presents

Bhutan: Gross National Happiness

Curators: Michael Schuster and Annie Reynolds

Consultants: John Wehrheim and Thinley Choden

Visiting artist monks: Lama Thinley, Kinley Penjor and Lopen Tenzin

Photographer: John Wehrheim Installation Design: Lynne Najita

Coordinator: Eric Chang

Click here to download the exhibition handout.

Sandwiched between the powerful nations of India and China, Bhutan is one of the world’s least known and most sparsely populated countries: only 38,400 square kilometers (about the size of Switzerland), with a population of 800,000 scattered across fertile valleys that dot otherwise untouched forests. The Bhutanese are diverse, speaking 24 languages and more than 100 dialects of Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan languages. Beneath the towering peaks of the eastern Himalayan mountains, Bhutan is a stabilizing force supporting Himalayan Tantric Buddhist culture. Unlike many historic Himalayan kingdoms, Bhutan was never conquered or colonized. The country is blessed with peace, prosperity, and an ancient culture still alive and vibrant. Bhutan’s fourth monarch, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, led his people from absolute monarchy to a democracy guided by the principle that Gross National Happiness better measures success than Gross National Product. The fourth king rejected the conventional model of global development: that more is better and growing consumption equals success. The king aimed to balance the country’s economic needs with environmental preservation and traditional values, founded on the Buddhist principles that all life is sacred and all living beings are interdependent. The Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness are: Environmental Preservation, Preserving and Promoting Culture, Good Governance, and Balanced Economic Development.

Exhibition photographs feature people in everyday life, taken between 1991-2006 in western and central Bhutan. From the snow peaks of Lunana and the rice paddies of Punakha to the nightclubs of Thimphu, this area represents Bhutan’s great diversity of culture, climate, terrain, and people. The exhibition also includes textiles, Buddhist ritual items, and utilitarian objects. The exhibition features a traditional mandala made of sand and created on site by visiting Bhutanese Buddhist monks.


Sand Mandala

The exhibition features a traditional sand mandala that is created on site during the first week of the exhibition by visiting Bhutanese monks. A sand mandala is a visual representation of the Himalayan Buddhist cosmos.

The creation of the mandala can be viewed:

  • Monday (Feb. 26) 10 am-12 noon
  • Tuesday (Feb. 27) – Friday (March 2) 10 am – 12 noon and 4-6 pm


A brief ceremony to bless the mandala through the end of the exhibition will be held on Sunday, March 4 at 3:30 pm


Primary Contact Info:
Phone: 944-7177