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Asia

Happy Reading - Taipei book fair focuses on Bhutan

Organizers say they wanted to highlight a different cultural dimension by focusing on the Himalayan country. Historical manuscripts from Bhutan are presented abroad for the first time at the fair.

Organizers say they wanted to highlight a different cultural dimension by focusing on Bhutan

Organizers say they wanted to highlight a different cultural dimension by focusing on Bhutan

The Bhutan pavillion of the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) showcases some 400 books, including for the first time, three manuscripts - A thick handwritten 13th century biography of Guru Rinpoche who is revered as the second Buddha, the Buddhist classic "The Eight Thousand Verses of Transcendental Wisdom" from the 17th century, written in liquefied gold and a letter by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the unifier of Bhutan.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou, (third from left) and Dasho Karma Ura, head of Bhutanese delegation (second from left) opens a book to launch the 2011 Taipei Book Fair on February 9.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou, (third from left) and Dasho Karma Ura, head of Bhutanese delegation (second from left) opens a book to launch the 2011 Taipei Book Fair on February 9

The country was chosen as the focus "to bring a different experience to the readers and the publishing industry from Taiwan and international exhibitors," said Paulina Lin, director of the Taipei Book Fair.

"Bhutan has only about 700,000 people, but the country has their rich tradition and culture and a different kind of publication," she said. "It might not have a well developed publishing industry, but "they have their own kind of way to present literaturem," Lin added.

The fair is attracting a large number of visitors curious to know more about Bhutan and to see the handwritten manuscripts.

About a dozen Bhutanese authors, publishers, and officials are taking take part in the six-day fair which runs until February 14. It also includes publications from the 1970s, when the first printing press started in Bhutan, untill the present.

Taiwan Bhutan exchange - economic success and happiness

The Bhutan pavillion of the book fair includes three religious manuscripts. Many of the religious texts and prayers, like the ones being read by the monks are handwritten or printed from wooden carved blocks.

The Bhutan pavillion of the book fair includes three religious manuscripts

Bhutan has famously introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness, or GNH, to complement economic indicators for wealth and development. Grace Huang, President of the Taiwan Bhutan Culture and Economic Association, says the book fair presentation provides a platform for both Taiwan and Bhutan to exchange ideas about economic success and happiness.

Huang says the two might be similar in size but there are differences that both can learn from, "Taiwan is a developed country and Bhutan is famous for their GNH concept."

"Most Taiwanese are rich, but sometimes they ask 'how come we don’t feel happy?', Bhutan is a small country, but most people there seem to be more happy," she pointed.

A seminar on Happiness Policy was also offered during the fair. Dasho Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies based in the capital Thimphu said he found great interest in Taiwan in the concept of GNH.

Wider horizon for Bhutanese writers

He is happy that Bhutan's culture receives more attention and critical appraisal by participating in such events and also sees benefits in terms of potential tourism. "It is also an event where individual writers from Bhutan can find their journey."

Organizers say the Taipei book fair is special as it also marks Taiwan's 100th birthday

Organizers say the Taipei book fair is special as it also marks Taiwan's 100th birthday

"We don’t have such opportunities in Bhutan. Here if someone reads their books and likes to take a printing contract, it is possible," he explained.

"It gives a profile to Bhutanese writers and likewise our horizons become clearer once you participate and meet people of different backgrounds and cultures."

Apart from school textbooks and journals, Bhutan publishes about 30 books a year. The publishing industry is small but thriving with some 20 publishers now.

About 800 publishers and over 400 writers from 59 countries, mostly from Asia are taking part in the Taipei book fair.

Author: Sherpem Sherpa
Editor: Sarah Berning

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