John A. Ardussi

Research Focus

ardussi-bhutan-2005In 2009 we published the proceedings of the “Written Treasures” international conference on Bhutanese literature sponsored jointly by the National Library of Bhutan and the Royal Library of Denmark, for which I was invited to serve as guest editor. In the same year I participated in the opening symposium of the “Dragon’s Gift” exhibit of Bhutanese art at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. I am currently working with Professor Per Sorensen (Leipzig University) to complete a new translation of the Royal Chronicle of Sikkim, making substantial use of the Sikkimese scholar Kazi Dawa Samdup’s long-unpublished manuscript. For this edition we have consulted several original Tibetan manuscripts of the Chronicle that have only lately become available. Our inspiration has been the Royal Grandmother of Bhutan Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, who is a descendant of both the Sikkim and Bhutan royal families and who is contributing her personal photographs and memorabilia.

More generally, I plan to continue collaborating with Bhutanese scholars on various research projects at The Centre for Bhutan Studies in Thimphu

Besides Himalayan Studies, I have a second full-time career as an electrical engineer in the aerospace electronics industry. I have worked for more than thirty years in engineering, and international sales and marketing.

In my research and business I continue to explore the interface between technology, government, and the humanities.

Academic Background

  • 2008 – present. Private research scholar focused on Bhutan, Tibet, and Himalayan Studies
  • 1996 – 2005. Associate member of CNRS (Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique – Paris), UMR8155 Equipe tibetaine, chinoise et japonaise
  • Ph.D. Asian Civilizations, Australian National University, 1977
  • M.A. Asian Languages & Literature, University of Washington, 1972
  • BSEE. Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, 1985
  • B.A. History (cum laude), University of Washington, 1967


  • The History and culture of Bhutan, from earliest times to the 21st century.
  • Tibetan history and literature, especially post 14th century.
  • Contemporary history of the Himalayan countries.
  • Technology, economics, and governance as interrelated factors in Himalayan and Tibetan history.


Edited Books
  • Co-translator, with Per Sorensen (forthcoming). The Royal Chronicle of Sikkim.An annotated & illustrated edition of the translation from Tibetan by Kazi Dawa Samdup, of the ’Bras ljongs rgyal rabs (1908), together with historical introduction and memorabilia of Her Majesty The Royal Grandmother of Bhutan. Serindia.
  • Co-editor, with Sonam Tobgye ( 2009). Written Treasures of Bhutan. Mirror of the Past and Bridge to the Future.Proceedings of the First International Conference. Thimphu: Bhutan National Library.
  • Co-editor, with Françoise Pommaret (2007).  Traditions & Changes.Proceedings of the 12th Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Oxford 2003. Leiden, E.J. Brill.
  • Co-editor, with Henk Blezer (2002). Impressions of Bhutan and Tibetan Art.Tibetan Studies III. Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
  • “Bhutan as Recognized by History.” The Druk Journal, 1. Thimphu: Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, 2015.
  • “Lepcha Chieftains of the 17th – 18th Centuries, based on Tibetan and Bhutanese Sources. Aachuley Journal of Lepcha Culture. Kalimpong, 2014.
  • “Sikkim and Bhutan in the Crosscurrents of 17th and 18th Century Tibetan History.”  InAlex McKay & Anna Balikci-Denjongpa (eds). Proceedings of the International Conference on Buddhist Himalaya: Studies in Religion,History and Culture. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok (Oct. 2008). (2009).
  • “Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye (1638-1696), Artist Ruler of 17th-century Bhutan.” InBartholomew, Terese Tse & John Johnston, eds. The Dragon’s Gift. The Sacred Arts of Bhutan. Serindia & The Honolulu Academy of Arts (2008).
  • “Rgya [Gya] Family and Reincarnation Lineages of Ralung Monastery (Tibet) and Bhutan. Appendix II Genealogical Study. In Bartholomew, Terese & John Johnston (2008).
  • Historical Introduction to Michael Aris (2nd edition). Sources for the History of Bhutan. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. (2009)
  • “Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye and the Founding of Tshechu in Bhutan.” In John Ardussi, et al (eds). Written Treasures of Bhutan.Thimphu: Bhutan National Library. (2009).
  • “A Preliminary Investigation of Bhutanese Castle Ruins and Caves associated with Lha sras Gtsang ma.” InJohn Ardussi & Françoise Pommaret (2007).
  • “Notes on the rGyal-rigs of Ngawang and the Clan History of Eastern Bhutan and Shar Mon.” InRamon Prats, ed. The Pandita and the Siddha – Tibetan Studies in Honour of E. Gene Smith. Dharamsala: Amnye Machen Institute (2007).
  • “A 17th Century Stone Inscription from Ura Village.” Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 11. Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies (2004). Thimphu.
  • “Formation of the state of Bhutan (’Brug gzhung) in the 17th century and its Tibetan antecedents.” In Christoph Cüppers, ed. The Relation Relationship between Religion and State (chos srid zung ’brel) in Traditional Tibet.Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute, Lumbini. ( 2004).
  • “The Gdung Lineages of Central & Eastern Bhutan – A Reappraisal of their Origin based on Literary Sources.”InKarma Ura & Sonam Kinga (eds). The Spider and the Piglet. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Bhutan Studies. Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies (2004).
  • Introduction to: The Necklace of Pearls – Biography of the 13th Druk Desi Sherab Wangchuk (1697-1765).Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. (2003).
  • “Incarnations of the Pema Lingpa Tradition.” In Sarah Harding. The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa.Boulder, CO, Snow Lion Publications. (2003).
  • “Wealth Distribution Rituals in the Political Economy of Traditional Tibet and Bhutan.” InAlex McKay (ed.). Tibet and her Neighbours – A History. London: Editions Hansjög Mayer. (2003).
  • “Observations on the Political Organization of Western Bhutan in the 14th century, as revealed in Records of the ’Ba’-ra-ba Sect.” InJohn Ardussi & Henk Blezer eds. (2002).
  • Co-author (with Karma Ura). “Population and Governance in mid-18th Century Bhutan, as Revealed in the Enthronement Record of Thugs-sprul ’Jigs med grags pa I (1725-1761),” Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 2, no. 2 (2000). Thimphu.
  • “The House of ’Obs-mtsho – The History of a Bhutanese Gentry Family during the 13th – 20th Centuries.” InJournal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 2, no. 1 (2000). Thimphu.
  • “Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye and the Founding of Taktsang Lhakhang,” Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 1, no. 1. (1999). Thimphu.
  • “The Rapprochement between Bhutan and Tibet under the Enlightened Rule of sDe-srid XIII Shes-rab-dbang-phyug (r. 1744-1763).” InHelmut Krasser et al, Tibetan Studies – Proceedings of the 7th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995. Vienna, 1997, pp.17-27 (Reprinted in Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol. 1, no. 1).
  • (with Lawrence Epstein). “Drukpa Kunley the Saintly Tibetan Madman.” InJohn Fisher, ed. Himalayan Anthropology. Leiden: Mouton & Co., 1977.
  • “Brewing and Drinking the Beer of Enlightenment – the Doha Tradition in Tibet,” Journal of the American Oriental Society97/2, pp. 115-124.
  • “The Quest for the Brahmaputra River and its Course according to Tibetan Sources,” The Tibet Journal 2/1, pp. 35-49.