The 19th annual Taipei International Book Exhibition (台北國際書展) may unlock the secret to satisfaction. The theme country for the event, which opened on Wednesday and runs through Monday at the Taipei World Trade Center (台北世界貿易中心), is the country that introduced the Gross National Happiness index in 1972.
Guests from Bhutan include Karma Ura, the director of the Center for Bhutan Studies, who will discuss the Gross National Happiness index as one of the opening speakers today at 9am on the second floor of Exhibition Hall 1.
Book lovers will certainly be filled with glee: The exhibition features 20 sections, 700 activities and 300 participating authors.
Bhutan’s participation in this year’s exhibition is meant to increase exposure for Bhutanese writers and draw attention to efforts to improve the country’s literacy rate (which was 56 percent in the five-year period from 2003 to 2008, according to UNICEF).
“This year’s event is a rare opportunity to get to know a country that is very mysterious for a lot of people,” said exhibition coordinator Michelle Tu (涂文貞). More than 300 books by Bhutanese authors on topics ranging from history and architecture to traditional clothing — many of which have been translated into English or Chinese — are available to browse. Kunzang Choden, said to be the first Bhutanese woman to write a novel in English, speaks at 4pm this afternoon at the Bhutan Pavilion in Exhibition Hall 1.
Literary and religious artifacts from Bhutan’s national collection will be displayed, including a 12th century copy of the Buddhist text The Eight Thousand Verses of Transcendental Wisdom (八千誦); an original copy of the biography of Padmasambhava, who introduced Vajrayana Buddhism to the country; and a decree issued by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who united the tribes of Bhutan into a nation state in the 17th century.
WHAT: Taipei International Book Exhibition (台北國際書展)
WHERE: Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Halls 1, 2 and 3
WHEN: Today, tomorrow and Sunday from 10am to 10pm, Monday from 10am to 6pm
ADMISSION: NT$100 for adults, NT$80 for students, companions of disabled persons and those aged 65 and up, NT$50 after 6pm on weekends. Children under 125cm tall and disabled people get in free
ON THE NET: www.tibe.org.tw/new
“Some of these items have never left Bhutan before. They are truly national treasures,” said Tu. Events through Sunday at the Bhutan Pavilion include exhibitions about the country’s traditional clothing and music, and afternoon teatime with suja (or butter tea) and handmade pastries.
The exhibition’s roster of participating authors includes literary luminaries like Jostein Gaarder, the author of international best seller Sophie’s World, who will speak at 3:30pm, and Dan Millman, author of The Journey of Socrates, who speaks at 4:45pm. Both events will be held at the Red Salon (紅沙龍) in Exhibition Hall 1.
Taiwan’s own pavilion features two exhibitions. One, by the National Museum of Taiwan Literature (國立臺灣文學館), displays 100 manuscripts and handwriting samples from renowned writers and scholars. The other traces this country’s development through maps from the 1930s to the 1970s collected by historian Chuang Yung-ming (莊永明).
Fourteen other countries have their own sections, including France, Germany, the US, Poland, Israel, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.
As at previous book exhibitions, manga and animation lovers can participate in illustration classes, puppet shows and cosplay competitions at the Comics Hall. Children can listen to storytellers or go shopping at a stationery pavilion with more than 60 exhibition booths featuring the latest in school and art supplies.
One section dedicated to electronic readers is balanced by an art exhibit titled The Impossible Library (不可能的圖書館), which focuses on the art of bookmaking through displaying books by 22 artists, including Italians Bruno Munari and Lucio Fontana, that were influenced by surrealist, dadaist and conceptual art.