Shangri-La (སེམས་ཀྱི་ཉི་ཟླ།) is a picturesque town amidst snow-capped mountains, mighty rivers, dense jungles with snub-nosed monkeys and remarkable gorges. Although thought to be a surreal paradise, it exists at an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level in north western Yunnan province of China.
The capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Shangri-la. It is located in Yunnan Province, sandwiched between Tibet to its west and Sichuan to its east. It is situated about 315 kilometers to the north of Dali and 659 kilometers from Kunming. Shangri-la town is at the southeast edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is a door to the UNESCO World Heritage Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas. These three major rivers include Salween, Yangtze and Mekong flow in same direction between the mountains.
From Zhongdian to Shangri-la
Once known as Zhongdian, the town’s name was changed to ‘Shangri-la’ to attract tourist after James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon mentioned of a fictional paradise in the Tibetan lands. Every town in the region wanted to be renamed Shangri-la, but after much efforts by Zhongdian’s governor, it successfully became the famed Shangri-la. Shangri-la in Tibetan translates to the Land of Peace and Sacredness. Originally, its Tibetan name is Gyaitang or Gyalthang which implies Royal Plains. Shangri-la is home to a majority of Tibetan and ethnic Han residents and a minority of Yi, Naxi, Lisu and Bai residents while the countryside is dotted with Tibetan nomads.
Songzanlin Monastery (Ganden Sumtseling Monastery)
This Tibetan Monastery is located a few kilometers to the north of Shangri-la town on a hill. Being the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan, Songzanlin Monastery is residence to around 700 Yellow Hat monks. This impressive structure, representing Tibetan culture, was built in 1967 under the orders of the fifth Dalai Lama in the style of Potala Palace in Lhasa. This spiritual center has Tsongkapa, Sakyamuni, and Bon Temples, and has portraits of the revered tenth Panchen Lama, an important religious figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The Ganden Sumpseling Monastery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but since then has undergone restorations to reflect its past treasures.
Pudacuo National Park
Pudacuo National Park, a treasure of flora and fauna, is situated about 20 kilometers east of Shangri-la town at an elevation of 3500 to 4000 meters. It is one of the first National Parks in China and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Three Parallel Rivers Scenic Area. The Pudacuo Park has intense topography and rich biodiversity of wild animals and plant life. It has the renowned Lake Bita and Lake Shudu which are nestled between mountains covered with green forests and rare animals.