Fabled Cities


Kunlun Mountains


My whole life I have heard about Shangri-La:  A mysterious, hidden, far away destination, where a utopian lifestyle of no worries exists.  A place of peace and harmony, no cares at all.  A place where people live for a very long time.  There is an old black and white movie with called Lost Horizon, based on the 1933 novel by James Hilton where they are searching for Shangri-La.  The movie is directed by Frank Capra, the director of the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  I do not recall seeing Lost Horizon while I was growing up but I did see the movie about eight years ago.  Even though I have seen it fairly recently, about the only thing I remember from the movie was the discovery of a remote hidden village in the Himalayas.  I did not care much for the movie.

Shangri-La is like El Dorado, or the Fountain of Youth:  One of those elusive destinations that will never be found.  Yet, people ponder is there any evidence to support such a mysterious locale.  The Chinese think so.  Several cities within China claim to be where the legend of Shangri-La started.  The Chinese government does not discourage such speculation because it draws tourism.

The Kunlun Mountains of western China for centuries have been a source of mystery in Chinese folklore and legend.  The Shan Hai Jing are ancient classic writings about mythical mountains.  In Tibet, a portion of the mountain range is known as the “Shang Mountain Pass.”  Hilton visited the mountainous area of eastern Pakistan and western Tibet shortly before he penned his novel.  He also spent time with Buddhists monks intriqued by thier lifestyles.  Buddhism was a largely unknown religion to many Westerners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Today the term Shangri-La is often used in conversation to describe a perfect place, utopia, or paradise such as the Garden of Eden.  It can also be used to describe an obsessive desire to acquire, find or achieve something:  “After many years trying to win, he finally found his Shangri-La when he won the elusive title of National Scrabble Champion at the big tournament in Vegas.”   

I choose to place Shangri-La on the game board of Treasure Trove because it is a cool sounding term and because of the thought of such a remote, exotic, and hidden location.  I think kids love to hear about such places.  The closest I have come to Shangri-La is when I bought some gogi juice from a friend several years ago who sold the stuff.  He said the elixir was made from gogi berries from a remote village in the Himalayas where the people lived very long lives.  It was another of my failed attempts at finding the Fountain of Youth. I no longer buy gogi juice, and I don’t think it prolonged my life.  Even though I doubt I will ever see, must less touch Shagnri-La, at least I can say I tried to give it a taste.