Shangri-La
Lost Horizon location
GenreNovel
Information
TypeValley

Shangri-La is a fictional place in the Kunlun Mountains (崑崙山) described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by English 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, particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – an enduringly happy land, isolated from the world. In the novel, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living hundreds of years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance.

In the ancient Tibetan scriptures, the existence of seven such places are mentioned as Nghe-Beyul Khembalung.[1] Khembalung is one of several beyuls (hidden lands similar to Shangri-La) believed to have been created by Padmasambhava in the 9th century as idyllic, sacred places of refuge for Buddhists during times of strife (Reinhard, 1978).

Etymology

The phrase "Shangri-La" most likely comes from the Tibetan "ཞང་", pronounced "Shang" – a district of Ü-Tsang, north of Tashilhunpo[2] + "རི", pronounced "ri", "Mountain" = "Shang Mountain" + "", pronounced "la", "Mountain Pass", which suggests that the area is accessed to, or is named by, "Shang Mountain Pass".

Possible sources for Hilton

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, Evariste Regis Huc and Joseph Gabet, to provide the Tibetan cultural and Buddhist spiritual inspiration for Shangri-La.[3][4] 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,[5] went through many editions in many languages.[6] A popular "condensed translation" was published in the United Kingdom in 1928.[7]

Current claimants

Hilton visited the Hunza Valley, presently located in the Pakistani-administered territory of 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.[8] 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 Lijiang[citation needed] and Zhongdian, claim the title. In 2001, Zhongdian County in northwestern Yunnan officially renamed itself Shangri-La County, Xiānggélǐlā in Chinese (香格里拉).

Recent searches and documentaries

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.[9] 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.[3][4]

Between 2002–2004 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 northern Yunnan Province from articles published by National Geographic's first resident explorer Joseph Rock. [10]

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 northwestern 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.

Television presenter and historian Michael Wood, in the "Shangri-La" episode of the BBC documentary series In Search of Myths and Heroes, suggests that the legendary Shangri-La is 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

References

Citations

  1. ^ Shrestha, Dr. Tirtha Bahadur; Joshi, Rabindra Man; Sangam, Khagendra (2009). The Makalu-Barun National Park & Buffer Zone Brochure. Makalu-Barun National Park.
  2. ^ Chandra Das – Tibetan English Dictionary
  3. ^ a b Michael McRae. (2002). The Siege of Shangri-La: The Quest for Tibet's Sacred Hidden Paradise. New York: Broadway Books.
  4. ^ a b Crisler, B. R. (July 26, 1936). "Film gossip of the week". The New York Times. LXXXV (28673) (Late City ed.). p. X3.
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Beatrice Mille. (1953). A selective survey of literature on Tibet. American Political Science Review, 47 (4): 1135–1151.
  7. ^ 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 |volume= has extra text (help), rev. ed. by Routledge 1928.
  8. ^ "Shangri-la Valley". Adventure Tours Pakistan. 20 June 2006. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-29.
  9. ^ "Could This Be the Way to Shangri-La?" by Timothy Carroll (29 July 2002). Electronic Telegraph. London.
  10. ^ Brahm, Laurence. (2004). Shambhala Sutrah (film expedition).

Sources