Shangri-la China, Shangri-la Historic Countries, Shangri-la Vacation
Filed under World's Best Places
The town is split between Tibetan and ethnic Han residents, as well as a fair smattering of Naxi, Bai, Yi and Lisu, with the surrounding countryside entirely Tibetan. While the crass name change in 2001 was a sign of the desire for increasing mass tourism a la Lijiang, the town has got nowhere near Lijiang’s crowds, and it’s still possible to experience the area’s Tibetan heritage and see gorgeous countryside in near isolation.
Zhongdian was renamed Shangrila for marketing reasons. Signs in bus stations still use Zhongdian. There is also a third name in Tibetan, Gyelthang. The original Shangrila, from James Hilton’s novel The Lost Horizon, was a (fictional) hidden paradise whose inhabitants lived for centuries. Hilton (who never went to China) located his Shangri-La in the Kunlun mountains. However, elements of his story were apparently inspired by National Geographic articles about various places in eastern Tibet (including Zhongdian); hence China’s rationale for claiming the name.
Local Khampa Tibetans claim that the name Shangri-la was most likely derived from their word for paradise “Shambala,” by Hilton through exposure to Rock’s writings on the region.
Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains.
Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance.
The word also evokes the imagery of exoticism of the Orient. In the ancient Tibetan scriptures, existence of seven such places is mentioned as Nghe-Beyul Khimpalung. Khembalung is one of several beyuls (“hidden lands” similar to Shangri-La) believed to have been created by Padmasambhava in the 8th century as idyllic, sacred places of refuge for Buddhists during times of strife (Reinhard 1978).
Many scholars believe that Shangri-La is Shambhala, a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which was sought by Eastern and Western explorers.
Shangri-La is often used in a similar context to “Garden of Eden”, to represent a paradise hidden from modern man. It is sometimes used as an analogy for a lifelong quest or something elusive that is much sought. For a man who spends his life obsessively looking for a cure to a disease, such a cure could be said to be that man’s “Shangri-La”.
It also might be used to represent perfection that is sought by man in the form of love, happiness, or Utopian ideals. It may be used in this context alongside other mythical and famous examples of somewhat similar metaphors such as The Holy Grail, El Dorado and The Fountain of Youth.
Various states, geographically and politically isolated from the West, have been termed Shangri-Las. These include Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tuva, Mongolia, the Tocharian Tushara Kingdom of the Mahābhārata, and the Han Dynasty outpost Dunhuang.