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Shangri-La 香格里拉

Capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Deqin. The community is found in a valley surrounded by mountains, 3,200m above sea level. This place marks the beginning of the Tibetan world, in fact, though Zhongdian is the Chinese name for the city its inhabitants, who are mostly Tibetan, call it Gyelthang. It also coincides with the name of Shangri-La, a land where peace and serenity reign, according to the James Hilton novel “Lost Horizon”. The inhabitants of this region are of the (Tibetan) Zang minority, and their way of life is characteristic of the high Tibetan plateaus. They follow the Tantric Buddhist religion and work in agriculture, herding yaks. The Songzanglin Monastery is also found in Zhongdian. Founded 300 years ago, this Tibetan monastery is the most important in South East China and is home to more than 600 monks. It is a wonderful example of how the Tibetan architecture is in harmony with its surroundings, and for those who haven’t visited Tibet, it is a marvellous introduction to the Tibetan Buddhist way of life. A few hours away from Zhongdian is the Mei Li or Kawakarpo Mountain. Located on the border between the Yunnan province and Tibet, it has three peaks which are over 6000m high, the largest, Kawagebo Peak, stands at an altitude of 6740m. It remains a “virgin peak” as until now nobody has managed to reach its peak. This mountain is one of the sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism and each year, at the start of the summer, thousands of devoted pilgrims arrive from Tibet and the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu. Halfway up the mountain, at an altitude of 2600m, is the Mingyong Glacier which is 4km in length and between 30 to 80m wide. From afar the glacier resembles an enormous white serpent against the greenery of the mountain.

           

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