Yading in Sichuan: Hilton's Shangri-La?


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In James Hilton's classic "Lost Horizons," four plane crash survivors are led by a mysterious Chinese man deep into the the Tibetan mountains. Their final destination is a monastery hidden in "the valley of the blue moon" - Shangri-la, a land of mystery and matchless beauty where life is lived in tranquil wonder, beyond the gaze of a distracted world.

Officially, Shangri-la is a city in the northwestern corner of China's Yunnan province, near the border with the Tibet Autonomous Region. The area is beautiful, filled with grand mountain peaks, beautiful alpine landscapes, and ethnic Tibetan peoples. However, to many who have traveled in southwest China, the real "Shangri-la" and inspiration for Hilton's book is a mere 10 hours away by bus - in Sichuan province's Yading/Daocheng region.

Yading means “the land that faces the sun” in Tibetan, and the region is a mountain sanctuary and major Tibetan pilgrimage site, comprised of three immense peaks sanctified by the 5th Dalai Lama and known today as the "Daocheng Three Sacred Mountains."

The three peaks of the Daocheng Three Sacred Mountains are: Mt. Xian Nair to the north, towering 6,032 m (19,790 ft) above the sea level, Mt. Yang Maiyong to the south, at 5,958 m (19,547 ft), and the eastern peak of the same heightMt. Xia Nuo Duo Ji. All three peaks are spotlessly white,  precipitous, and imposing, liking sharp swords jutting into the clouds.

In Sichuan's shangri-la, the glaciers, meadows, rivers, forests, and towering snow-covered mountains bring to bear the full beauty of creation. With its magnificent scenery, Yading is regarded by many visitors as "the last pure land on Earth.” 

Unlike Shangri-la in Yunnan, which is being heavily promoted and developed for tourists, Yading remains hidden and largely undisturbed in Sichuan, much like the land in Hilton's tale of a Tibetan utopia. 

In autumn, the trees are especially vibrant, exuding their warm fall colors. When spring returns after the winter, the natural world of Yading comes awake - the horses take to the fresh grass and the forests are in full bloom!

Only a Sichuan tour will bring you to this hidden haven, so pack a bag and come experience your own Tibetan paradise!


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