remains one of few pure lands with authentic minority cultures and
well preserved natural ecosystems. This region features
impressive snow mountains, great canyons, vast grassland,
beautiful highland lakes, dense primitive forests and unique
Shangri-la is directly translated from the Tibetan language, and
is also translated as "Xiang Ba La" which means "the sun and the
moon in one's heart". In its original language, it refers to a
utopia paradise. The British writer James Hilton coined the
English word "Shangri-la" in his novel Lost Horizon published in
1933. Ever since, people have been yearning to find what James
Hilton described in his book.
was in the 1990s that more and more people recognized that there
are great similarities between Hilton's portrayal of Shangri-la
and Yunnan's Diqing Tibetan region. Finally, Diqing County, then
the capital city of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was
renamed Shangri-la County in 1997.
For a long time, Shangri-la has been known as the Grand Garden on
the Mountains, the Kingdom of Fauna and Flora. Once, this was an
important transit stop for the famous Old Tea-Horse Caravan Road
in southwest China. More recently, its natural beauty has been
recognized globally. Diqing Tibet Autonomous Prefecture is one of
the most important integrated parts of the Three Parallel Rivers
of Yunnan Protected Areas which has been enlisted by the United
Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) World Heritage Committee. Baima, or White Horse Snow
Mountain, is categorized as the State Nature Reserve.
Located in the triangle of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet, Shangri-la
has always been an appealing place for tourists. The County site
is 659 KM (410 miles) from Yunnan's provincial capital, Kunming.
You can arrive at Diqing from Kunming in just about 50 minutes by
air. Buses from Lijiang and Dali are commonly chosen
There are more than 13 ethnic minority groups which live here,
including Tibetan, Lisu, Han, Naxi, Yi, Bai, and Hui. They also
follow different religious beliefs. Tibetan Buddhism,
Christianity, Catholicism and animism constitute its multi-faith
communities. Maintaining their uniqueness, peoples from different
ethnic groups with different beliefs have lived peacefully in this
region generation after generation.
It has been
listed as one of China's eight most popular tourist destinations.
Now beautiful Shangri-la has been attracting more and more
visitors to this amazing place.
Famous attractions in this region are Bi Ta Hai Lake, Gui Hui
Monastery, Whitewater Terraces, Meili Snow Mountian and, Napa Hai
Bi Ta Hai Lake is extolled as a magnificent place with great variety of
flora and fauna as well as marvelous landscapes just like those
seen on Chinese prints. In the local Tibetan language, Bita has
the meaning of "land that feels like cattle hair". At 3,539 meters
(2.1 miles) above sea level, the lake claims to have the highest
altitude of lakes in Yunnan Province. It is about 32 KM (19.9
miles) away from Zhongdian County and you can take buses from
Being praised as Pearl on the Plateau, the lake is enclosed by
lavish vegetation in the nearby mountains which will surely
provide an astonishing experience. Densely scattered azaleas
plants can be seen on surrounding mountains. In late spring
and early summer flowers are in full bloom and the hillsides glow
with red, and together with green and the crystal clear lake
water, present a picture-like scene. There is a rare occurrence in
the lake, so called "fish getting drunk by azaleas''. There are
plenty of "Bita hai Double-Lip Fish”, which are believed to be one
of the ancient species that have survived from the Fourth Glacial
Age. During later May of each year, azalea flower petals fall into
the lake sometimes because of the heavy rains, and fish in the
lake eat some of these flower petals. Actually azaleas contain a
small amount of toxins, hence after eating the flowers, the fish
float on the surface of the lake as if they were intoxicated. The
Admission fee is 110 RMB.
Hai (Napa Lake)
Napa Hai Natural Reservation (elevation of 3270 meters, or 10,728 feet),
about 8 kilometers northwest of the seat of Shangri-la, is a
Yunnan provincial reservation. Among other species, Black-Necked
Cranes, China's first class national protected rare wild fowl, is
the best known protected animal here. Being the largest grassland
in Shangri-la, it is one of the tourist attractions that best
represents the distinctive plateau characteristics in this county.
Northwest of the lake is the ruin site of an ancient Buddhist
Temple, the Guqin Temple. It was built in China's Ming Dynasty,
more than 400 years ago, but was destroyed in the Qing Dynasty 200
years later. What is left now are but rubbles and debris, only the
still-standing lush ancient trees remind you of its formal glory.
Standing on the ruin site, you will have a panoramic view of the
Napa grassland in its tranquility and quiet beauty, which you
could only experience here. The Admission fee is 30 RMB.
Also called Ge Dan Songzanlin Lamasery in Tibetan, the monastery
is about 5 KM (3.1 miles) north of Zhongdian County seat. It is
among the largest Tibetan Buddhist Temples in Yunnan Province.
Following the designing and structure of the Potala Palace in
Lhasa in Tibet, it is regarded as the "Small Potala Palace". The
history of the Guihua Temple can be dated back to 1679, when
Emperor Kang Xi of China's Qing Dynasty approved and authorized
the fifth Dalai Lama to the construction. Later Kong Xi's
successor, Emperor Yong Zheng, granted the Chinese name "Guihua
Temple". The affirmation from government extolled its role in
Tibetan Buddhism, and is one of popular monasteries in the Tibetan
area. It is the holy land for devote Tibetan Buddhism
followers. The Admission fee is 30 RMB.
Within Baidi village, the White-water terraces are about 90 KM (56
miles) from the county seat of Zhongdian. The site is at the foot
of Haba Snow Mountain in Baidi Village. The whole site is 140
meters (153 yards) long and 160 meters (174 yards) wide, with half
of the platform pool is surrounded by white limestone on top. In
the past, the spring water here was carbonic, containing a great
amount of calcium and carbonate elements. As the spring
water streamed downwards over a long period of time, it made one
terrace after another which became an extraordinary scene just
like rice terraces. Legend says that it is here that the Fairies
of Heaven taught Naxi people to cultivate rice on terraces.
Admission fee is 30 RMB.
Not only is Baishui Terrace a beautiful place with marvelous
views, it is also regarded as the cradle of the Naxi culture. It
is said that the founder of Naxi’s Dongba religion, Xi Ba Hui Lou,
was passing by Baishui Terrace after finishing his Buddhism study
in Tibet. Amazed by the beauty here, he decided to stay and preach
what he had learned. Ever since then, Baishui Terrace has been
honored as the holy land by Dongba’s followers.
On the eighth
day of the second lunar month, people from around this region come
here and celebrate the traditional annual festival “Er Yue Ba” (or
the eighth of the second month). Poultry is slaughtered and the
blood is dotted on trees to show reverence to mountain deities.
After the religious ceremonies people return to sing and dance,
and sometimes the celebrations extend overnight which presents a
very impressive occasion.
The Meili Snow
Located in the
renowned World Natural Heritage the Three Parallel Rivers Region,
the Meili Snow Mountain is about 10 KM (6.2 miles) away from the
seat of Deqing County. Its main peak, the Kagebo peak, 6740 meters
(22,112 feet) above sea level, is the highest mountain in Yunnan.
For a long time, Kagebo peak has been regarded as the patron saint
of Ningma, one school of Tibetan Buddhism. Also known as the
Mountain of the Snow Mountains, it is one of the most important
holy mountains in Tibetan regions. Every year religious Tibetans
and devote Buddhists from Yunnan, Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai, and
Gansu come here to pay pilgrimage.
Other than its religious atmosphere, Meili Snow Mountain is also
known for its spectacular glaciers and moraine. The most famous
one is the Ming Yong Qia Glacier. It covers an area of 73.5 square
KM (28 square miles), from as high as 5500 meters (18044 feet)
above sea level to an altitude of 2700 meters (8858 feet), where
the earth is covered by forest. It is one of few contemporary
glaciers in the marine monsoon climate region of low latitude in
the world. Its natural beauty also makes it a pilgrimage site for
mountain climbers. It might be because of its holiness, that
Kagebo peak is one of very few mountains, if not the only one,
that has not been conquered by human beings.
Also called Gedan Dongzhulin Temple, it is 105 KM (65 miles) away
from the county seat of Shangri-la. It is very easy to access as
the Yunnan-Tibet Road passes right in front of the temple. With
good road conditions, people can get into the temples all year
round as there is no snow blocking the way. It was originally
built in 1667 during Emperor Kang Xi's regime in China's Qing
Dynasty. In its history, the Dong Zhu Lin Temple served as one of
the thirteen most influential Tibetan Buddhism Monasteries in the
Tibetan region, but later on it was destroyed in warfare. It was
not until 1985 that the Chinese government reconstructed the site
which became the present temple and was opened to the public.
Because of its abundant Buddhist relics, it has been ranked as
Yunnan's Key Provincial Cultural Relics Protection Site. Ever
since October 1987, the annual Buddhist Monk Festival is
celebrated here. A grand Buddhism ceremony is observed, and
Buddhists and laymen alike from Tibetan regions come here for
There is a Catholic church in a village called Cizhong which is
unlikely to be found anywhere else. It was built by French
missionaries in the 1900’s. With typical gothic architectural
characteristics, the church building integrated local
characteristics, like that of the Tibetans and the Hans. In a
place like Zhongdian where Buddhism is prevalent, people from
around Cizhonag village, who are from different ethnic groups like
Lisu, Tibetan, and Naxi come to Cizhong Catholic Church to attend
Mass, where the Tibetan language is used throughout the service.