Mysterious Places

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There is a tradition in Tibetan folklore of beyul -- secret or hidden lands, usually described as valleys.  The tradition of the Himalayan Buddhist Elders -- the Nyingmapa -- says that Guru Rinpoche empowered 108 of these havens, places where there was peace and prosperity, and spiritual progress was facilitated.  

This article deals mainly with Pemako, Shambhala (or, Shambala) and Shangri-la.  There are many more --  real, legendary, mythological, and imaginary.

Pemako 

Lotus-land or Pemako is somewhere on the border of East Tibet and Assam in northeast India.  Terma or hidden teachings describing the way to Pemako were revealed by Rigdzin Jetsun Nyingpo (1585-1656) and also by Rigdzin Dudu1 Dorje (1615-1672.) 

  • Pemako neyig revealed in 1959 to Khamtrul Jamyang Dondrup Rinpoche.

Nov. 23/04, SF Gate review of The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place by Ian Baker; introduction by the Dalai Lama:

For nearly 2,000 years, the notion of an earthly paradise hidden among the peaks of Asia has captivated the human imagination. In the fourth or fifth century C.E., a Chinese poet named Tao Qian wrote of a peach blossom path that a fisherman follows to a secret tunnel. On the other side of the passage lies a lavish spiritual oasis, the first hint of James Hilton's "Shangri-La."  Fifteen centuries after Tao Qian, British explorers combed the canyons of southern Tibet for just such a beyul, a "hidden land" of bliss and nectar that, as described in ancient Buddhist texts, lay in a sacred range called Pemako.

Enlivening their search was a geographical oddity. Deep in that remote region of Tibet, the mighty Tsangpo River, which flows onto the Indian subcontinent as the Brahmaputra, churns around a great bend. The river then disappears from sight, lost in an inaccessible canyon flanked by sheer cliffs. This "Five Mile Gap" had never been explored and was believed to boast the highest
waterfall in Asia -- the "Hidden Falls of the Brahmaputra." Behind those cascades, Tibetan texts claimed, lay the door to Yangsang, the ultimate hidden land of immortality, reachable only by those with purified hearts and minds.

Ian Baker, a Kathmandu-based writer, explorer and Tantric scholar (and a close colleague and confidant during many of my own Himalayan adventures), first learned of beyuls in 1977, while studying Buddhist scroll painting in Nepal. They quickly became an obsession, and in subsequent audiences with high Buddhist lamas, he refined his understanding of how one might reach them.

The Dalai Lama, in one of several audiences, assured Baker that it would take more than a good compass. Only after mastering their innermost depths, His Holiness said, could Buddhist practitioners gain entrance to these hidden realms. Beyuls do exist on earth, Baker was assured, but lie beyond the range of our ordinary senses. "It's a bit like quantum physics," the Dalai Lama
explained, "which recognizes parallel dimensions and multiple universes."

With a degree of conviction almost unimaginable in this age of attention deficit disorder, Baker began his do-or-die search for Yangsang. Guided by Chatral Rinpoche -- a Gandalf-like lama who had gained some knowledge of Pemako's secrets -- Baker began a series of long, solitary retreats in remote Himalayan caves, subsisting on dried meats and grains. He continued to live and study in
Kathmandu, learning the Tibetan language and poring over terma, long-concealed texts that, like weathered treasure maps, provide clues to the whereabouts of the hidden lands.

Baker made his first trip into the Tsangpo area in April 1993 as a member -- in body, if not in spirit -- of Rick Fisher's expedition to raft the merciless waters of the gorge. Along with a fellow expedition member named Ken Storm Jr., Baker separated from Fisher's luckless group. The two men (along with local porters and Mr. Gunn, as their plaintive Chinese guide Geng Quanru called himself) spent weeks thrashing through the Pemako jungles, attempting to access the
still-hidden corners of the Tsangpo.

True to the warnings of sages and explorers, Pemako itself was far from "the Promised Land of Tibetan prophecy" that British explorer Frank Kingdon Ward had sought in 1924. Even Kingdon Ward, a botanist who loved Pemako, wrote of the "perpetual rain, snakes and wild animals, giant stinging nettles and myriads of biting and blood-sucking ticks, hornets, flies and leeches," none of which spared Baker and Storm.

But Pemako, according to Buddhist tradition, is more than its rocks, swamps and leeches. It is the earthly representation of a Tibetan goddess named Dorje Pagmo. Each cliff, cave and waterway is part of her body. Between 1993 and 1998, Baker, accompanied sometimes by the cerebral Storm and often by his rakish friend and fellow scholar-explorer Hamid Sardar, would make half a dozen expeditions through her anatomy.

A chronicle of their hardships would fill this entire section. Porters abandoned them; Chinese bureaucrats attempted to thwart their plans. Torrential rains, clouds of tiny gnats and voracious leeches drove them to despair (at one point, Sardar wakes up screaming, with a tiger leech affixed to the roof of his mouth). The waterfall they sought could easily be a mere chimera. "We [were]
journeying without real permission," Baker concedes, "to a place that did not exist, as far as governments and maps were concerned. What we would find there was even more uncertain."

True believers, Baker, Storm and Sardar never abandoned their respect for the goddess whose body they had entered. With dry good humor, Baker acknowledges his half-mad desire to persevere, a desire that seems, at times, more the obsession of a Captain Ahab than an enlightened seeker. As a
character in his own narration, Baker quickly emerges as a sort of modern avatar of Sir Richard Francis Burton, driven equally by brilliance and hubris.

Baker's twin goals would have humbled Indiana Jones: to locate the legendary waterfall and win entrance into the mythical realm we know as Shangri-La. It's now a matter of record that he succeeded at one of these quests. The Hidden Falls of Dorje Pagmo, as Baker renamed them, were "discovered" by his National Geographic-sponsored team on Nov. 8, 1998. (Local hunters, not
surprisingly, had known how to reach the falls all along. It took Baker, with his command of the local language and respect for Buddhist ritual, to win their trust.)

But what of Yangsang? What of Shangri-La? One of the book's many delights -- and "The Heart of the World" is among the most complex, compelling and satisfying adventure books I have ever read -- is to follow Baker's inner journey as he tries to balance his Buddhist aspirations with an admittedly materialistic desire to find the key into Yangsang.

At one point, Baker seeks that key -- an actual, literal key -- on the lichen- covered face of a sacred cliff: "The mist, the rain, the vegetal growth, the micro-organisms veiled from sight, all entered through the pulsations and cuts in my scratched and torn hands," Baker writes at one point, "and where I could not go I could only yield and be entered . . .  .  All Pemako seemed to coalesce into the square foot of rock directly before me, and all its hidden depths were concealed only by my limited awareness and the mechanisms of mind itself."

He faces similar frustrations in the gorge itself. Tibetans, Baker reminds us, view waterfalls as an interface between the physical and ethereal universes -- the worlds of body and spirit. And "some doors cannot be opened, " he allows, "until they open in us first."

On occasion, Baker's narration becomes a bit esoteric, and -- lest we have any doubt about the ethereal nature and symbolic meaning of waterfalls -- he makes the above observation for innumerable perspectives.

It's a forgivable excess. By the book's end, Baker and his companions have journeyed into the purgatorial Tsangpo Gorge half a dozen times, overcoming every obstacle to find their grail. The conflicting emotions sparked by their historic discovery -- pride and humility, exhilaration and exhaustion, pure joy and an inevitable sense of anticlimax -- can be reconciled only within the context of Tibetan Buddhism and its doctrine of nonduality. There are no opposites, and no separations. This world is a display of interlaced phenomenon, which the mind reflects as an implacable mirror.

To grasp this realization, Baker concedes, is the ultimate goal of all seekers.

"The Heart of the World," though not easy to absorb, is one of the most extraordinary tales of adventure and discovery ever told. On the prosaic level, it's the search for a hidden waterfall that eluded explorers for more than a century. But it is also -- perhaps primarily -- an exploration into the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, which views the animistic spirits of sacred geography as metaphors for the nature of mind.

Both journeys are fascinating, and each is dependent on the other. From harrowing encounters with tribal poisoning cults to a descent into the roaring "throat" of a Buddhist goddess, Baker's quest is an unforgettable saga. Like his fellow explorers, we find our own inner doors opening along the journey.

A century from now, "The Heart of the World" will still ignite the imagination of anyone who loves to explore and seeks the deeper meaning of his explorations. A fearless adventurer in both body and spirit, Baker has written one for the ages. 

Ian Baker's The Heart of the World.  Penguin Press, 511pps US $27.95


Shambhala or Shambala

Shambhala was the name chosen by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche for his institution.  Under the auspices of the 16th Karmapa and the sponsorship of his devoted followers, he was the first Tibetan lama to receive a Western university education (at Oxford, England.) The Buddhist teachings that he considered to be suitable for Western students incorporate the Tibetan Karma Kagyu tradition along with other elements. 

The name means Basis of Joy and may derive from a very ancient oral tradition.   Shambo is one of Shiva's epithets.  Since Shambala is actually the name of a fabulous land, or beyul, in the Himalayas, to avoid confusion, in this article the spelling without the "h"  designates the place.

The Hindu Puranas say that at the end of Kali Yuga, the Kalki avatar (horse-headed form of Vishnu) will be born in the best of the brahmin families of Shambala in order to annihilate the evil-doers of earth.  Here, Shambala is described as hidden in the interior of the planet.

Details of the realm of Shambala are described in the Kalchakra legend in which a Hidden Kingdom somewhere in the Himalayas exists ruled by a king in concert with a wisdom-holder.  There, enlightened and accomplished beings preserve ancient knowledge and guide the progress of humankind. 

The Kalachakra Tantra (Wheel of Time Tradition) belongs to the highest class of Buddhist tantras and, until the initiations given with some regularity by HH the 14th Dalai Lama, it was relatively unknown in the West.  He promotes it in the cause of World Peace, for it is said the Buddha prophesized that those who receive the Kalachakra empowerment would take rebirth in its mandala. 

The Tantra relates how the bodhisattva Vajrapani manifested as Suchandra, ruler of the land of Shambala and requested Buddha Sakyamuni to teach concerning the nature of time.  On the full-moon day of the third month, at the stupa of Dhanyakataka in South India, before an assembly of innumerable buddhas, bodhisattvas, dakas and dakinis, gods, nagas, and yakshas along with human disciples, he appeared as the deity called Kalchakra and transmitted a complete cosmological system.  

On his return to Shambala, the king constructed a three-dimensional model of the mandala of  Kalachakra, and absorbed himself in that practice.  He also transmitted the teaching to all inhabitants of his kingdom.  There, the teachings were preserved but remained hidden from the rest of the world until 1,000 years had passed.

The Kalachakra Tantra did not make its way to Tibet until the 10th century when, it is said, Indian pandita Chilupa, while visiting Shambala with some merchants listened to the Kalachakra teachings.  He wrote them down from memory upon his return.  In 1026/27, the book was translated into Tibetan and that year, Red Hare year, was known as Rab-byung (pron. rabjung.)  It is considered the start of the Tibetan sexagenary system where we are currently in the 17th cycle.

Since then, Tibetans have been familiar with the description of Shambala (Tib. bde byung, pron. De-jung,) as given in the tantra, along with the corresponding cosmological view which informs all branches of knowledge, including a system of astrology that is used to guide decisions.

  • HH 14th Dalai Lama responds to A. Berzin's questions on the nature of Shambala
  • Form

    Shambala is said to be somewhere north of Kashmir.  It is in the form of an eight-ringed, eight-petaled lotus where each region is enclosed by a boundary of mountains.  In the center of it is Kalapa, the capital of the kingdom of Agharta.  The city is surrounded by shimmering crystalline mountains, and the king's palace is composed of gold,  coral, diamonds and other precious gems.

    South of Kalapa is Sandalwood Park, twelve yojanas across (just like the town.) To its east is Lesser Manasa Lake, also twelve yojanas across, and to the west is White Lotus Lake, of the same extent.  In the midst of the Park is the great Kalachakra Mandala built by King Suchandra that has the gods and goddesses made out of the five jewels.  It is square, four hundred hastas across. 

        ~ King Pundarika'sVimalaprabha (Flawless Light)  commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra.

    In the Bon tradition, corresponding to Shambhala is a heavenly abode called Olmo Lungrung with a form based on the square instead of the circle.  

    Technology

    The technology of Shambala is highly advanced.  The windows of the palace function as powerful lenses that serve as telescopes high-powered enough for studying life on other worlds. For hundreds of years, the inhabitants have been using aircraft and subways.  This advancement is not limited to the mere material, for the inhabitants have been able to develop powers of clairvoyance, swift long-distance travel on foot, and also the ability to materialize and disappear at will. 

    The belief in the existence of Shambala has been reinforced by reports of unusual occurrences in the Himalayan region where it is thought to be.  In the early 1900s The Statesman carried a report by a British army officer of a very tall, lightly clad man with long hair who, when he noticed the major, leaped down a vertical slope and disappeared. Tibetans back at the encampment showed no surprise at the major's account, but simply explained that he had seen one of the guards of the sacred land. 

    Alexandra David-Neel, the French adventurer who spent 14 years in Tibet, reported seeing a man moving with extraordinary speed:

    "I could clearly see his perfectly calm impassive face and wide-open eyes with their gaze fixed on some invisible distant object situated somewhere high up in space. The man did not run. He seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. It looked as if he had been endowed with the elasticity of a ball, and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum." 

    Shambala supposedly can be perceived only by those sufficiently pure both in mind and karmic resolution.  It is also held that the reason we do not hear from anyone who has successfully found it is either because they do not want to return, or because they have been destroyed in the attempt. 

    There are texts listing the Shambala rulers along with corresponding events in the outside world, and also predictions for the future.   The decline of Buddhism in Tibet, the rise of materialism everywhere, and events of the tumultuous 20th century can be discerned in those predictions. 

    The Prophecy

    The prophecy of Shambala states that there will be 32 kings who will each reign for 100 years. As those reigns are accomplished, conditions outside the Kingdom will deteriorate.  Men become more warlike in their pursuit of power for its own sake, and the accompanying ideology of materialism will spread over the whole earth. When the materialists are united under a single evil king and think there is nothing left to conquer, the mists will lift to reveal the icy mountains of Shambala. 

    Barbarians will attack Shambala with a huge army equipped with terrible weapons. Then the 32nd king of Shambala, Rudrachakrin (Iron Wheel Master) or, according to another tradition, Kalki, will lead his mighty forces with their supra-mundane weapons against the invaders.  In a last great battle, the evil king and his followers will be destroyed. 

    The 1969 musical Hair includes a song, "Age of Aquarius," with the lyrics [by Rado and Ragni], "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars . . .  ."  This seems a reference to Hindu prophecy: According to the Vishnu Purana, the last ruler of Shambala will "re-establish righteousness upon the earth, and the minds of those who live at the end of the age of strife shall be awakened, and shall be as pellucid as crystal.  As it is said, 'When the sun and the moon, . . . Tishya, and the planet Jupiter are in one mansion, the age of Truth will return.' "

    Roerich's Book

    Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) was the set-designer for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.  He was also an ethnographer, a Himalayan explorer, and besides being a disciple of Helena Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy, he may have been a spy for the Soviets.  He promoted the notion that he was an incarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama, because of seven moles on his neck.

    He wrote, ca. 1928:  "I remembered how during our crossing of the Karkaroum Pass, my sais, [syce: groom, master of horse] the Ladaki, asked me. 'Do you know why there is such a peculiar upland up here? Do you know that in the subterranean caves here many treasures are hidden, and that in them lives a wonderful tribe which abhors the sins of the Earth?' And again when we approached Khotan the hooves of our horses sounded hollow as though we rode above caves or hollows. Our caravan people called our attention to this . . .  .    "Long ago people lived there; now they have gone inside; they have found a subterranean passage to that subterranean kingdom."  

    He also reported that a lama had said "You Westerners know nothing about Shambala -- you wish to know nothing. Probably you ask out of curiosity; and you pronounce this sacred word in vain."  

    He later added, "Great Shambala is far beyond the ocean. How and why do you people take interest in it? Only in some places, in the far North, can you discern the resplendent rays of Shambala [the aurora borealis ?].  . . .  The secrets of Shambala are well guarded."

    Roerich said that he had been told that some high lamas had visited Shamballah. "I've heard of the Buryat Lama and how he was taken through a narrow, secret passageway.  So please don't tell me of only the heavenly Shamballah because I know that a real one exists on Earth . . .  . How does it happen that Shambala on Earth is still undiscovered by travelers? On maps you may see so many routes of expeditions. It appears that all heights are already marked and all valleys and rivers explored." 

    Lama: "But as yet . . . people have not found all things -  so, let a man try to reach Shambala without a call! You have heard about the poisonous streams which encircle the uplands. Perhaps you have even seen people dying from these gases when they come near them.  . . .  . Many people try to reach Shambala, uncalled.  Some of them disappear forever. Only a few of them reach the holy place and only if their karma is ready." 

    Roerich's belief in the existence of Shambala 

    " . . . made him politically significant . . . because incarnated from the legendary kings of Shambala were supposed to be the Panchen Lamas crucial to the international rivalries swirling around Lhasa. Roerich brought the bewilderments of the later Great Game to America, where he propagated the idea of Shambala, claimed healing powers for his paintings, diddled the taxman and corresponded in mystic codes with Henry Wallace, FDR's Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President ('I have thought of the New Country going forth, to meet the seven stars and under the sign of the three stars'). 

    Jan. 7, 2001 review in The Observer of Meyer and Brysac's Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia. 

    Dzogchen master, HH Orgyen Kusum Lingpa (Treasure-revealer of the Three Kayas,) titular abbot of Thubten Chokhor Ling Monastery in Golok, Tibet, has revealed numerous teachings and prophesies concerning Shambala.  He says that the kingdom of Agharta could be reached from India by flying northwards for seven days. 

    ________________________________________________________________

    In 1973, Three Dog Night had a hit song with BW Stevenson's On the Road to Shambala:  "How does your light shine in the halls of Shambala?"

    Shambala is also the name of a West African language.

    Hidden Lands of India

    In India, the secret land is known as Gyanganj or as Siddhashram. References are found in Valmiki's Ramayana and also in The Mahabharata.  Guru Nanak (17th century), who established Sikkism, referred to Sach Khand

    In Autobiography of a Yogi. (mid-20th century) Paramahansa Yogananda wrote about meeting the guru of his guru's guru (his great-grandguru) named Mahavatar Babaji.  He described him as still alive in the Badrinath region of the Himalayas, and despite his great age he retained the appearance of a young man. 

    That guru was connected with Gyanganj, as was the guru of Gopinath Kaviraj (died 1976,) the principal of the Government College of Sanskrit in Benares, who wrote Siddhabhoomi about those mysterious places.  His own teacher, the Bengali guru, Swami Vishudhananda, had told him of the time he spent in Gyanganj studying Surya Vigyan (solar science.)  The practice of that knowledge enabled him to manifest various objects and to transform one thing into another by manipulating the sun's rays.  

    Yogananda also knew Vishudhananda, and described a meeting with him in Calcutta, where he witnessed his ability to manifest various perfumes on demand. 

    Paul Brunton, in A Search for Secret India also reported that same siddhi of Vishudhananda's, and also claims that he saw him revive a dead bird. 

    Gyanganj is generally described as a plateau in Tibet lying north of Kailash.  Like Plato's Atlantis, or a place out of Arthurian legend, it is described as surrounded by a moat filled with crystalline water.  A bow-shaped drawbridge links it to our world, and it can only by raised by one who knows how to do Surya Vigyan. 

    (Parveen Chopra. Gyanganj, "Spirit Worlds," LifePositive.com)

    Akash Ganj

    This place is in Arunachal Pradesh (north eastern India,)  120 km. from Rohing.  Also known as Akash Ganga, its focus is the small hill where the holy river is viewed as emerging from the topknot of Lord Shiva.  The crystal spring spills down the rocks and collects in and around a small hill.  

    Here it is believed that all species of animal live in perfect harmony.   The pool is one of those that the birds seem to maintain by picking out any dead leaves or other things that might sully the water. 

    Shangri-la

    Shangri-La is the name of the earthly paradise in the 1933 novel, Lost Horizon by British author, James Hilton that is variously described as a spy story or a pacifist fantasy.  In March 2002, officials in southwestern China renamed the impoverished county of Zhongdian lying in the Yunnan mountains near the Tibetan frontier, Shangri-La. 

    Hilton described a rich, isolated Tibetan valley governed by an ancient high lama where life was easy "with free love and flush toilets," and people lived for hundreds of years, free of corrupting influences from the outside world.

    In 1937, American director Frank Capra made a film of Lost Horizon starring Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt. 

    China Daily gushed, ''Shangri-La is no longer a distant imaginary haven; the paradise has been brought to Earth.''  Perhaps they mean, "It has been brought low." 

    Cashing In

    Cash is the old Chinese word for the small traditional coins that could be strung.

    "This seems to be the real thing ... or is it? Controversy rages over renaming of county as China 'cashes in' " is the heading for David Chang's article in Aug. 22, 2002's Bangkok Post, which says, in part:

    The [March 18/02] announcement aroused interest among travel agencies but triggered protest from scholars in Asia, who have accused China of riding roughshod on the dream of paradise by commercialising the name "Shangri-la''.

    Of course there are many people who do back China's creation of a Shangri-la county.

    "I fully support China's renaming Zhongdian because James Hilton was inspired by Zhongdian," Taiwan anthropology professor Cheng Chin-teh said.

    "Hilton based his book on the writings by Joseph Lock, a US botanist who lived in Naxi near Zhongdian for 27 years until he was kicked out by the Chinese Communists in 1949.  "Everything in Zhongdian matches descriptions in Hilton's book,'' he said.

    Cheng has visited Zhongdian five times and led 30 Taiwan travellers on a Shangri-la tour to Zhongdian last month.

    Zhongdian is indeed a paradise on earth. At an altitude of 3,000 metres, it boasts snow-capped mountains, blue lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, Tibetans and lama monasteries.

    Tibetans regard the highest peak of Zhongdian's Meilixue Mountains -- 6,740-metre Kawaboge Peak -- as the holiest of the eight Holy Mountains they worship. The pyramid-shaped peak has never been scaled by men.

    Zhongdian has a Birang Valley, matching the Blue Moon Valley in Lost Horizon, and a 100-year-old Catholic church built by European missionaries, an approximate link to the story in Lost Horizon about a French priest who led Shangri-la as its high lama.

    Zhongdian people know about Lost Horizon because Xuan Ke, a fiftyish musician and scholar in Naxi translated the novel from English into Chinese. 
    He launched a campaign to "officially'' confirm the book was based on Zhongdian and to persuade the State Council to rename Zhongdian as Shangri-la County. Hilton cannot be consulted: he died in 1954.

    Zhongdian County did rename itself Shangri-la County in 1997, and received the State Council's approval for this on March 18 this year. Since then, many Chinese and foreign tour groups have visited Zhongdian -- taking a 45-minute flight from Yunnan's capital city, Kunming, to Naxi and riding a bus for four hours to Zhongdian.

    Despite its opening to tourists, Zhongdian's scenery and ecology has
    reportedly not suffered much damage from tourism ... yet.

    The local Tibetans are still very poor.

    Lost Horizon tells how Britain sends a diplomat -- Robert Cornway -- to evacuate 90 Europeans, who are trapped in war-torn China, from a fictitious place called Baskul to the coastal metropolis of Shanghai.

    But Cornway is able to get only four Europeans into a plane, which flies them to Shangri-la instead of Shanghai. He later finds out the plane has been sent by Shangri-la's high lama to kidnap him so that Cornway would take over the leadership of Shangri-la.

    After living in Shangri-la for some time, Cornway and the other Europeans become homesick and flee Shangri-la. After reaching civilisation, Cornway realises he has abandoned something dear to him and returns to Shangri-la.

    The word "Shangri-la'' has brought huge profits to the Himalayan region.

    Tens of thousands of tourists visit the Himalayas each year taking Shangri-la tours, using Shangri-la hotels and buying books whose covers bear the magic word.

    Places billed as resembling the fictitious setting of Lost Horizon include both Pokhra and Darjeeling in Nepal [sic]; Mustang (a Tibetan kingdom under Nepalese rule,) the tiny territory of Sikkim, and Bhutan as well as Hunza in Pakistan.

    None outside China claim to "be'' Shangri-la. Observers say Zhongdian's declaration that it is the "true'' Shangri-la is unlikely to produce a challenge from other nations, even though they fear China's move will hurt their tourism.

    There are suspicions that China may also claim "Shangri-la'' as a trademark and bar others from putting the word on their goods as a brand name.

    Even inside China, some scholars have questioned the wisdom of the Chinese move.   "I don't think it's appropriate because we all know Shangri-la refers to utopia, a fairy tale,'' says Li Xu, a researcher at China's Yunnan Research Institute for Social Sciences.

    "Apart from foreign countries, two regions in China which consider
    themselves to be the true Shangri-la are unhappy that the State Council gave the name to Zhongdian,'' he added.

    "Zhongdian got the central government's attention because Xuan Ke (the musician) invited reporters ...  who wrote stories and made
    Zhongdian well-known. They have waged the self-promotion campaign for several years.''

    Even before the State Council approved the name-change, Yunnan was already capitalising on the name. A Yunnan distillery has been turning out a wine called Shangri-la Tibetan Drink, saying it is made [from] a formula left by French missionaries.

    Another Yunnan factory produces a Shangri-la brand cigarette, after having bought the trademark from a cigarette factory in China's Shannxi Province.

    • Oct. 14/04, Rediff, "China to exploit lure of 'Shangri-la' "

      Three southwest Chinese regions have vowed to end their 'chaotic' battles and work jointly to exploit the worldwide lure of Shangri-la, the state media reported on Thursday.

      The word Shangri-la became world-famous after British writer James Hilton published his book Lost Horizon in 1933. Shangri-la is said to be the popular Tibetan word for 'sun and moon in the heart', or an ideal, enchanting wonderland.

      In order to develop their local economies, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet had all played the Shangri-La card, each claiming that the real Shangri-la was in its territory.

      After consultations, government representatives of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and Tibet Autonomous Region signed a declaration of cooperation, Xinhua news agency reported.  They agreed to end the 'chaotic' battles among themselves and construct a broad-based Shangri-la eco-tourism zone, Xinhua quoted industry experts as saying.

      "Cooperation of the three regions in tourism would help reduce cost of the tourism industry, enlarge the tourist market and improve the efficiency of tourism development," Wang Huichen, deputy governor of Sichuan province, said.

      In 2001, Tibet Autonomous Region put forward a proposal that the three regions optimise all Shangri-la tourism resources and promote them as one.  Two meetings of coordination about the establishment of China Shangri-la Ecological Tourism Zone were convened in 2002 and 2003, but without substantial progress.
    ______________________________________________________________

    beyul:  The Tibetan name for Nepal, whose capital is in the pleasant and prosperous Kathmandu valley, is Beyul.

     

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