The Kingdom of Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small Himalayan country east of Nepal, nestled between China and India, with an estimated population of 700,000. Last month, Bhutan celebrated the wedding of monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth Druk Gyalpo ("Dragon King"), to 21-year-old commoner Jetsun Pema, now Druk Gyal-tsuen ("Dragon Queen") of Bhutan. The deeply traditional nation has been slow to adopt modern development; a country-wide ban on television and the Internet was only lifted in 1999, and only after the previous king abdicated power in 2006 did the nation have its first parliamentary elections. Bhutan, often rated as one of the happiest countries in the world, is the birthplace of the concept of "gross national happiness," an alternative to the more traditional measure of gross domestic product. The popular Oxford-educated king is now seeking to strengthen ties with other nations while preserving as much of Bhutan's independence and culture as possible. Collected here are recent images of people and places within the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Fascinating 112 year-old photographs of Bhutan taken decades before the remote country in the Himalayas became open to outsiders have been unearthed.
The images provide an unprecedented insight into the isolated kingdom nestled between India and China in the heart of the Himalayas at the beginning of the 20th century.
The country was almost completely cut off for centuries as it sought to protect its ancient traditions and has only become more accessible to visitors since the 1970s.
Such has been their desire to protect their heritage they didn't have TV until 1999.
Sewing maids in their ancient, traditional costumes pose outside a building in the unearthed historical photographs of Bhutan
King of Bhutan Sir Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck (pictured, left) and a cliff-side monastery (right) which forms part of the Paro-taktsang monastery, which is perched on the face of a cliff thousands of feet above sea level
The durbar at Poonakha (pictured) was included in the photographs which are believed to be 112 years old
The photographs are believed to have belonged to the family of someone who took part in the expedition to Bhutan in 1905 and have since been passed to a private collector.
The present owner has now decided to submit them for auction and they are tipped to sell for £15,000.
Included in the collection are photographs of the ruler and future king Ugyen Wangchuck and a wide snapshot of the community.
The photographs have the impressive backdrop of the world's tallest set of mountains, the Himalayas.
In the north of the country, there are peaks in excess of 23,000 ft.
Photographer John Claude White captured the ruler with his council, monasteries, homes, a burial chamber, natives in ancient costume and a musical band as well as homes precariously perched on the edge of steep mountain faces.
Mr White visited Bhutan in 1905 to present Ugyen Wangchuck with the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire.
The visit granted him intimate access with the people of Bhutan at a time when barely any Europeans had set foot in the far flung country.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the British were competing with the Russians and Chinese for influence in Asia, so this trip could be seen as an attempt to win the support of the ruler of Bhutan.
The Wangchuck hereditary monarchy has wielded power since 1907 and for many decades the country cut itself off, fearing that outside influences would undermine its monarchy and culture.
Also included in the collection are also images of neighbouring Sikkim, which include lakes, rivers and yak herders.
Sir Ugyen Wangchuk (centre) and his bodyguards, photographed in Bhutan in 1905 by Sir John Claude White
A Hermitís House sits on a cliff face through the gorge leading to Paro-taktsang in the fascinating photographs
The Gorina Monastery, surrounded by Lamasí houses, situated on a spur running into the Paro valley in Bhutan
Fascinating 112 year-old photographs of Bhutan taken decades before the remote country in the Himalayas became open to outsiders have been unearthed
Matthew Haley, book and manuscript specialist at Bonhams which is auctioning off the photographs, said: 'He was an extremely good photographer.
'Sometimes the photographer was just someone who was part of the exhibition so you would get reasonable photographs but the person was not artistically talented.
'John Claude White was an exceptionally good photographer so artistically they have got a lot going for them.
'The expedition to Bhutan was in the early 1900s and it was pretty much the first time that Europeans had been there.
'On this expedition White had a very close interaction with the native population.
'He was going there to present a Star of India medal to the ruler of Bhutan so he was right in the thick of things.
'At that time the British were going all around the Himalayas area, as were the Russians and Chinese, because they all wanted a piece of the action.
'They wanted to strengthen relations with the kingdom of Bhutan so they presented the ruler with a medal.
'This was part of the "great game", a power play to control Asia.
'We are not 100 per cent clear of the provenance of the collection but we believe at one point it belonged to the family of someone who was on the expedition and it has since been with a private collector for quite some time.
'The collector has no personal link to Bhutan so they think it is time to move it on to someone who has a fascination with Bhutan.'
The Paro Taktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in the Paro district of Bhutan, viewed on October 16, 2011. The first temple was built on this cliffside location in 1692. (Reuters/Adrees Latif)