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December 15, 2010
On the northern edge of the capital of Bhutan, close to the banks of the Wangchu River, is the Buddhist fortress-monastery Thimphu Dzong. Lama Gyalwa Lhanapa built the original structure in 1216, although most of the original walls were burned in a fire in 1772. Respecting traditions, the architect hired by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1962 to repair and rebuild the dzong, never used any nails or architectural plans. The deep-red dressed monks and the sound of whirring prayer wheels filter through the whitewashed walls and triple-tiered red and gold roofs. Known today as “the Tashichhoedzong,” the monastery is one of the most popular landmarks of the country and the current seat of Bhutan’s government, housing the offices of the King, the ministries of home affairs and finance and the Throne Room, along with its thirty temples and shrines. It is a powerful political symbol intertwining the importance of the relationship between Bhutan’s religious and royal authorities.