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Is any place as synonymous with paradise as Shangri-la? But the fictional country created by novelist James Hilton in Lost Horizon is now a real county in China.    

Published on Feb 5, 2014

Mythical and mysterious

China renamed the hill-andvalley-filled Zhongdian County as Shangri-la—staking a claim to the earthly paradise also rumored to be in Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Robed response

Shangri-la, in northwest Yunnan on the Tibetan border, is thought to have been an ancient refuge for Buddhists. Today, it’s home to these monks from Songzhalin monastery.

Lift every voice

In a remote village church, an ethnically Tibetan Catholic follows the hymnal at Sunday mass. An estimated 3,000 Christians live in Yunnan.

The pilgrimage of Kawakarpo

The 240-kilometer trek circles the mountain range. Tibetans believe if a human sets foot on the actual peak, Kawakarpo’s eponymous warrior god will abandon them.


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