Shangri-La: Filmmakers and mountaineers assault a sacred mountain (Part I)
Oct 2, 2000
Dear Friends of the Kham Aid Foundation,
I'm in Dartsendo at the moment, preparing for a multi-purpose mission that will take us to southwest Ganzi Prefecture. Our main goals are to inspect a large burn area in Nyachuk (Yajiang) county where we plan to conduct reforestation and visit some children who received Kham Aid scholarships for primary and middle school.
We will also go to Daocheng (Dabpa) County for some exploration. Herein lies a tale.
Remember James Hilton and his book, Lost Horizons? It's a classic work of Himalayan fiction about some travelers who are hijacked in a plane and land in a remote, snowy place somewhere in Asia. Local people discover them and take them, blindfolded, to a utopian community in the mountains called Shangri-La. In this secret stronghold the people have created a civilization based on the Buddhist principals of peace and harmony. They also live to be hundreds of years old.
Now a team of American adventurers claims to have located Shangri-La in or near Daocheng County. They are reportedly in Daocheng right now, filming with a National Geographic team of cinematographers led by Peter Klika. We are told they have made at least one previous visit.
The claim of locating Shangri-La is based on original research carried out by team members. Their research included investigation of old documents as well as interviews of people such as Jane Wyatt, star of the film version of Lost Horizons. They are, naturally, not revealing their sources--at least not until the film is released.
The mountaineers among the group plan to climb Manjusri (Jambeyang), one of three sacred peaks in the region. The other two are Chenresig and Vajrapani. As far as we know, none of these peaks have been summitted, although many climbers have tried. Chenresig is the highest of the three at 19,890 feet.
A few things we do know Joseph Rock visited this area in the 1920s. There is nature reserve in the county called Yadin, south of the Daocheng County seat. This place can be visited by anyone with a Chinese visa and ability to pay the 50 yuan park entrance fee. The rest is a bit of a mystery, especially why the National Geographic team thinks that a place mentioned in a fictional work, written by someone who never went to Tibet, can be found. Our best guess is that they have found a place that strongly resembles the legend.
While we're not planning to chase after the National Geographic group, we are certainly curious about their activities and the location of this alleged Shangri-La. We're a bit concerned that attempts at climbing a sacred mountain will have negative consequences. But our main goal is simply to explore the region and later post information on the Kham Aid website to allow others to enjoy this remote and scenic spot.;
Accompanying me are Dana Isherwood, who is one of our board members, and Shiyin Siou, who is in charge of the Nyachuk reforestation project. We're also taking along Tseren Penlo, a local Tibetan who has participated in many Kham Aid programs. Our itinerary will take us to Nyachuk, Litang, Derong, and Daocheng (Tibertan Dabpa). We'd also like to attempt a little-used road from Derong to Batang.
Stay tuned for further dispatches as the trip unfolds.
Shangri-La, Part II