Shangri La

Shangri La

Ancient Civilizations

Carlos Borbor



Regarding the myth known as Shangri-La, it would undoubtedly be more fitting to say that the view it has of itself as a myth is where the actual myth lies, and were it departs from the concepts of reality. This is primarily due to the fact that Shangri-La isn’t an actual ancient civilization, or even mythological, with a heap of back-story to back it up, but rather the imaginary construct of the British writer James Hilton, and was introduced in his book “Lost Horizons” in 1933. The main characteristics of said fictitious place are its isolation from the mundane world (via mountain range), near immortality of its inhabitants, its guidance a monastery, and the overall utopian happiness or enlightenment experienced within. The most likely place where the imagery is based upon is in the Hunza Valley located in northern Pakistan, near the Tibetan border

Even though it hails from a simple literary imagery, the concept of Shangri-La has managed to transcend the pages of the book in which it was written and influenced different aspects of our culture, up to the point where a quest to arrive at Shangri-La could be considered on par with other utopia searches such as the Holy Grail, El Dorado, Excalibur, the Fountain of youth, etc.

Such has been the popular reception of Shangri-La, that after 1933 there has been many stories that are used to try to validate the existence of Shangri-La, such as a Nazi expedition to search for it in order to find an uncontaminated ancient race. Another trace of its popularity can be seen in the attempt of many places to harvest touristic success by claiming to be the actual Shangri-La; as examples of these cases we can see Shichuan, Tibet, Liijiang, Zhongdian, the Yarlung Tsappo Canyong, and some go as far as to change their name in order to resemble it more closely, as seen in the case of Zhongdian county renamed Xianggelila.

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