The Mystery Land of Shangri-La

Shangri La, is it a mystical place?  Base on the 1933 novel “Lost Horizon”, as described by a British author James Hilton. Shangri La is a charming place with harmonious valley, enclosed in the western end of Kunlun Mountains. It is a mythical Himalayan utopia, an earthly paradise of joy and happiness isolated by the outside world.  According to the novel, the people who live there are almost immortal, living beyond the normal lifespan and slow in their aging and appearance.

The original name for Shangri La is called “ZhongDian” which was then be changed to “Xiang Ge Li La” in year 2002. In Tibetan, the name carries a meaning of “Sun and Moon In Heart” a synonym of a homeland that can only be found in heaven.  It is located in the middle of three rivers and the sacred region is surrounded by magnificent mountains. When morning sun rises over the mountains, rays of light can be seen shining radiantly over the mountain peak where the monastery stood. Shrouded with bright and glistening golden yellow roof. It is enclosed by high and continuous snowy mountains with broad grassland and meadow below. Lakes, rural villages and grand gorges, a place where the tourist won’t want to missed! It is located at an average altitude of about 3,000m, Shangri La is difficult to reach without railways and modern transportation. Most tourist will have to take long distance bus directly from Lijiang Town, Yunnan Province.

Shangri La is inhabited by various different ethnic groups, with the majority of the population comprises of Tibetan. The Tibetan people of the land lives a simple and colorful life, surrounded by nature and the wonder of the land. Whenever you come face to face with them, they will always greet “Tashi Delek” means “fine” or “well”. Sometimes, they would even invite you to their home for a special tea called “butter tea”. Basically it’s just butter in a hot tea. The butter that they use are produced from “Yak”, an animal similar to cow which caters to their daily needs. From milk, they could processed into butter, Yak skin for clothing and tent, transportation and meat for food. Some of these people are still living in tent with a nomadic lifestyle especially among the shepherd  who have to feed their flocks on the wide grassland.

Tibetan people possesses a rich and colorful culture among the community. They live, sing and dance together by the square every morning and evening. Male and female. Colorful flags can be seen, hung across from one building to another.

– A young lady with her Tibetan Mastiff dog, also know as “Guard Dog”. It is believed that two of these dogs can hunt down a lion. They usually guard and protect among the herds.

Some of the main attractions surrounding Shangri La includes, Songzanlin Monastery, Wufeng Mountain, Tiger Leaping Gorge, White Water Terraces and Haba Snow Mountain towards the South. Located at the Northeast side, this is where the beautiful Shudu Lake and Bitahai Lake can be found. Legend described these lakes as “Pearls of The Land”, which was formed by pieces of shattered broken mirror belonged to a fairy while fixing her makeup. Among all the pieces of these mirror, one of the most beautiful with green jade is the Bitahai Lake. Worth taking the trip for a visit.

Though Shangri-La comprises of narrow streets with old and rugged buildings, it portrays a wonder and the beauty of the town. Unpolluted and free from the modern world beyond, yet surrounded by mythical nature with legendary stories of mountain and lake. The richness in the culture itself stands out among other ethnic group with a long historical background. Unknown to many, but slowly blooming. Who knows, if there’s ever been another Shangri La…


Paul Chong is a landscape fine art photographer base in Shanghai, China. He is dedicated to capture the beauty of nature scenery in which he also creates colorful fine art photograph for sale in various format and sizes, featuring museum archival quality fine print. Some of his work can be seen published in various magazine, website, event brochure and flyer.

He owned a collection of magnificent artwork which can be seen by visiting his online gallery at

Copyright © 2012, Paul Chong Photography, All rights reserved.


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