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Yading Mountains of Sichuan, China

+ Dai Sijie

Acclaimed novelist and filmmaker Dai Sijie tells MELANIE LEE that he’s found utopia in the Yading Mountains of Sichuan, China

Published on Jul 7, 2010

Yading village

There are only a few untouched paradises left in China and Yading Mountains is one. I have visited this place a few times for an upcoming film project. Every time I come here, I feel like James Hilton’s book, Lost Horizon, has come to life. The beauty doesn’t seem of this world; it is absolutely breathtaking. There’s nothing quite like walking among the clouds and gasping for breath at 3,500 meters.

It requires considerable effort to get to Yading. I usually take a two-day bus ride from Chengdu to Daocheng, a county in Sichuan province, where I will do a stopover. From there, it is about 100 kilometers to Yading Mountains. The Daocheng residents are Tibetan Buddhists and they regard Yading as a holy and sacred site where the fate of the world is decreed. They believe that if they make a spiritual pilgrimage of trekking around Yading’s three mountains once, all their sins and the sins of their ancestors will be atoned for.

Although luxury accommodation is available for travelers going to Yading, I prefer to stay with the locals in their small huts. Sometimes, I help them out in their fields. They often prepare tsampa for me, a Tibetan staple dish consisting of roasted barley flour mixed with yak butter.

Nature seems to be a lot more intense in Yading. The grass is extra green, the skies are extra blue, the clouds are extra white and even the grazing yaks have extra shaggy hair! It’s as if I’m in a dream—whatever I see here can never be found anywhere else. Throughout human history, men have always been in search of Shangri-La, this elusive heaven on earth. I’m glad that I have found my personal Shangri-La.


Five Color Lake
"The water magically change colorand reflect all shades of blue and green."

Milk Lake
"you will get to see a most magnificant view of glaciers and snow capped mountains from here."

Chong Gu Temple
"You will better understand Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual connection with Yading."


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