Shangri-La

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. The name also evokes the imagery of exoticism of the Orient. In the ancient Tibetan scriptures, existence of seven such places is mentioned as Nghe-Beyul Khembalung. Khembalung is one of several beyuls (“hidden lands” similar to Shangri-La) believed to have been created by Padmasambhava in the 9th century as idyllic, sacred places of refuge for Buddhists during times of strife (Reinhard 1978).
Some scholars believe that the Shangri-La story owes a literary debt to Shambhala, a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which was sought by Eastern and Western explorers.
In China, the poet Tao Yuanming of the Jin Dynasty (265–420) described a kind of Shangri-La in his work The Tale of the Peach Blossom Spring (Chinese: 桃花源記; pinyin: Táohuā Yuán Jì). The story goes that there was a fisherman from Wuling, who came across a beautiful peach grove, and he discovered happy and content people who lived completely cut off from the troubles in the outside world since the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BCE). In modern China, Zhongdian county was renamed Xiānggélǐlā (香格里拉, Shangri-La in Chinese) in 2001, to attract tourists. The legendary Kun Lun Mountains (崑崙山) offer another possible place for the Shangri-La valleys.