Shangri-La is a fictional place in Tibet's Kunlun Mountains,[1] described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by English author James Hilton. Hilton portrays Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains.[1] Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – an enduringly happy land, isolated from the world. In the novel, the people who live in Shangri-La are almost immortal, living hundreds of years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance.

Lost Horizon location
In-universe information

Ancient Tibetan scriptures mention the existence of seven such places as Nghe-Beyul Khembalung.[2] Khembalung is one of several Utopia beyuls (hidden lands similar to Shangri-La) which Tibetan Buddhists believe that Padmasambhava established in the 9th century CE as idyllic, sacred places of refuge for Buddhists during times of strife.[3]

Appearances edit

Official media:
Unofficial media:

Possible sources for Hilton edit

In a New York Times interview in 1936, Hilton states that he used "Tibetan material" from the British Museum, particularly the travelogue of two French priests, Évariste Régis Huc and Joseph Gabet, to provide the Tibetan cultural and Buddhist spiritual inspiration for Shangri-La.[4][5] Huc and Gabet travelled a round trip between Beijing and Lhasa in 1844–1846 on a route more than 250 kilometres (160 mi) north of Yunnan. Their famous travelogue, first published in French in 1850,[6] went through many editions in many languages.[7] A popular "condensed translation" was published in the United Kingdom in 1928.[8]

Current claimants edit

Hilton visited the Hunza Valley, located in Gilgit−Baltistan, close to the China–Pakistan border, a few years before Lost Horizon was published; hence it is a popularly believed inspiration for Hilton's physical description of Shangri-La.[9] Being an isolated green valley surrounded by mountains, enclosed on the western end of the Himalayas, it closely matches the description in the novel; although in a reversal on the story, due to increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation, inhabitants of the high-altitude parts of the valley appear to age quickly.[citation needed]

Today various places, such as parts of southern Kham in northwestern Yunnan province, including the tourist destinations of Zhongdian County, claim the title. In 2001, Zhongdian County in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwestern Yunnan province, officially renamed to Shangri-la. It is known as "香格里拉" (Xiānggélǐlā) in Chinese, "སེམས་ཀྱི་ཉི་ཟླ།" in Tibetan and "ज्ञानगंज" [gyanganj] in India.

Recent searches and documentaries edit

American explorers Ted Vaill and Peter Klika visited the Muli area of southern Sichuan Province in 1999, and claimed that the Muli monastery in this remote region was the model for James Hilton's Shangri-La, which they thought Hilton learned about from articles on this area in several National Geographic magazines in the late 1920s and early 1930s written by Austrian-American explorer Joseph Rock.[10] Vaill completed a film based on their research, "Finding Shangri-La", which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. However, Michael McRae unearthed an obscure James Hilton interview from a New York Times gossip column in which he reveals that his cultural inspiration for Shangri-La, if it is anywhere, is more than 250 km north of Muli on the route travelled by Huc and Gabet.[4][5]

Between 2002 and 2004 a series of expeditions were led by author and film maker Laurence Brahm in western China which determined that the Shangri-La mythical location in Hilton's book Lost Horizon was based on references to the southern Yunnan Province from articles published by National Geographic's first resident explorer Joseph Rock.[11]

On 2 December 2010, OPB televised one of Martin Yan's Hidden China episodes, "Life in Shangri-La", in which Yan said that "Shangri-La" is the actual name of a real town in the hilly and mountainous region in southwestern Yunnan Province, frequented by both Han and Tibetan locals. Martin Yan visited arts and craft shops and local farmers as they harvested crops, and sampled their cuisine. However, this town was not originally named Shangri-La, but was renamed so in 2001 to increase tourism.

In the "Shangri-La" episode of the BBC documentary series In Search of Myths and Heroes, television presenter and historian Michael Wood suggested that the legendary Shangri-La might be the abandoned city of Tsaparang in upper Satluj valley of Ladakh in India, and that its two great temples were once home to the kings of Guge in modern Tibet.

The Travel Channel in 2016 aired two episodes of Expedition Unknown that followed host Josh Gates to Lo Manthang, Nepal and its surrounding areas, including the sky caves found there, in search of Shangri-La. His findings offer no proof that Shangri-La is or was real.

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ a b Hilton, James (1933). Lost Horizon. Macmillan. Archived from the original on 17 November 2022. Retrieved 20 November 2022. Uses the spelling 'Kuen-Lun'.
  2. ^ Shrestha, Dr. Tirtha Bahadur; Joshi, Rabindra Man; Sangam, Khagendra (2009). The Makalu-Barun National Park & Buffer Zone Brochure. Makalu-Barun National Park.
  3. ^ Reinhard, 1978.
  4. ^ a b Michael McRae. (2002). The Siege of Shangri-La: The Quest for Tibet's Sacred Hidden Paradise. New York: Broadway Books.
  5. ^ a b Crisler, B. R. (July 26, 1936). "Film gossip of the week". The New York Times. Vol. LXXXV, no. 28673 (Late City ed.). p. X3.
  6. ^ Huc, Évariste Régis (1850), Souvenirs d'un Voyage dans la Tartarie, le Thibet, et la Chine pendant les Années 1844, 1845, et 1846, Paris: Adrien le Clere & Co. (in French)
  7. ^ Beatrice Mille. (1953). A selective survey of literature on Tibet. American Political Science Review, 47 (4): 1135–1151.
  8. ^ Huc, Évariste Régis (1852), Hazlitt, William (ed.), Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China during the Years 1844–5–6, vol. I, London: National Illustrated Library, rev. ed. by Routledge 1928.
  9. ^ "Shangri-la Valley". Adventure Tours Pakistan. 20 June 2006. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-29.
  10. ^ "Could This Be the Way to Shangri-La?" by Timothy Carroll (29 July 2002). Electronic Telegraph. London.
  11. ^ Brahm, Laurence. (2004). Shambhala Sutrah (film expedition).

Sources edit

  • Allen, Charles. (1999). The Search for Shangri-La: A Journey into Tibetan History. Little, Brown and Company (UK). ISBN 0-316-64810-8. Reprinted by Abacus, London. 2000. ISBN 0-349-11142-1.
  • Reinhard, Johan (1978) Khembalung: The Hidden Valley. Kailash, A Journal of Himalayan Studies 6(1): 5–35, Kathmandu. PDF
  • Wood, Michael (2005) Michael Wood: In search of Myths and Heroes: Shangri-La PBS Educational Broadcasting Company
  • Mother Love Bone single "This is Shangri-La" (1990)

External links edit