World Monuments Watch
Thimphu, Bhutan

2010 World Monuments Watch

While traveling with his disciples, Tsangpa Gyare, the Tibetan founder of the Drukpa Kagyud sect of Buddhism, saw nine dragons rise out of the earth and fill the sky with flowers. After his vision, Tsangpa Gyare prophesied that another monk would meet great success in a land to the south. A century later, in 1224, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo traveled south from Tibet to Bhutan to spread the teachings of the Drukpa Kagyud, thereby fulfilling the prophesy. Phajo established a center for meditation perched on a mountainside, at a place that now bears his name: Phajoding. Consisting of ten temples and a series of meditation houses, Phajoding has since been the regional center for a spiritual tradition that seeks the divine through solitary meditation. Bhutan, a country measuring success in terms of Gross National Happiness, has become an increasingly popular tourism destination as the government pursues a development strategy with a strong emphasis on conservation, local community participation, and sustainability. While there is a shared desire to encourage trekkers to visit Phajoding and experience its serene beauty and cultural history, these visitors exert increasing pressure on the fabric of the buildings and at times disrupt the tranquil environment of the meditating monks. Watch listing will hopefully advance efforts to harmoniously balance visitation and meditation needs, and improve maintenance of the centuries-old structures.

Last updated: July 2017.

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