Bhutan has been fortunate enough to never be colonized. It has therefore managed to retain a purity of culture that is entirely local with very few outside influences. Although recorded history mentions Bhutan in the 7th century, its existence as an independent entity was recognized even before that. In the 8th century, the great Tantrik mystic, Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche came to Bhutan from Swat, in present-day Pakistan, and spread the Buddhist faith.
The next defining event in Bhutan's history was the arrival of Ngawang Namgyal, the "Shabdrung" (literally, at whose feet one submits) in 1616. The Shabdrung was the father and unifier of medieval Bhutan. After repelling numerous Tibetan invasions, the Shabdrung subdued the many warring feudal overlords and brought all of Bhutan under the influence of the Drukpa Kagyud School. His 35-year reign also saw the establishment of a nationwide administration, aspects of which still endure, and the building of dzongs as easily defensible fortresses and seats of local government. In fact, many of the dzongs one sees today were built during the Shabdrung's reign.
The most recent watershed in Bhutan's history was the coming to power of Ugyen Wangchuk, the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan. Ugyen Wangchuk pacified the feuding Regional Governors who had plunged Bhutan into a state of almost perpetual civil war. Having consolidated his authority across the entire country by 1885, he played the key mediator role between the British and the Chinese. Finally, on December 17, 1907, Ugyen Wangchuk was unanimously elected by all Regional Governors and the Central Monastic Body, at the Punakha Dzong and crowned "Druk Gyalpo" (literally, precious ruler of the dragon people). The present king, the fourth hereditary monarch, is Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk, upon whose coronation in 1974 Bhutan opened its doors to tourists.