The country lies on the southern slopes of the Himalaya, bounded by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China to the north and India to the south, east and west (see fig.). The capital is Thimphu. The country’s various languages, with the exception of Nepali, belong to the Tibeto–Burman group, and the state religion is Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism. (For a discussion of Vajrayana Buddhism, see Buddhism, §III, 6, and Nepal, §I, 3, (ii).)
Bhutan, with an area of 45,000 sq. km., can be described as a gigantic staircase, rising from narrow southern lowlands at 300 m above sea-level to northern peaks of over 7000 m. Three relief zones—the foothills, the inner Himalaya, where the valleys are situated, and the high Himalaya—also define three broad climatic regions: tropical, temperate with monsoon and alpine. These variations, coupled with the dramatic changes in altitude, make Bhutan a country with an extremely rich flora....