The modern usage of the term Shangri-la dates from James Hilton’s 1933 classic story about finding a Buddhist, or specifically Tibetan, earthly paradise, where people live in peace and harmony with nature.
The exact location of the country is, of necessity, unknown, but many places have laid claim to being the original, including areas of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tuva, Mongolia, the Tocharian Tushara Kingdom, and the Han Dynasty outpost Dunhuang.
In this 2005 joint BBC/PBS documentary the popular historian and presenter Michael Wood outlines his idea, that is was in fact the Western Tibetan Kingdom of Guge, and particularly its capital Tsaparang.
Wood follows the tracks of the 17th century Jesuit explorer António de Andrade who became the first European to reach Tibet. There are several routes into the country, but Andrade choose one of the hardest, through the 5,608 m. Mana Pass.
Wood proceeds from Agra, up through Haridwar, and gets as far as the border, but then has to turn back owing to the current political situation along the border which is disputed between India and China.
This must have been a great trouble for him, but it is no great loss for us, as some of the most interesting footage comes from his detour through remote areas of Nepal.
He eventually manages to enter Tibet (disguised as a tourist) and makes his way first to Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, and then on to the Chinese side of the Mana Pass, before making his way to the ancient and abandoned city of Tsaparang.
There Andrade had managed to establish a mission and a church, but it cost the kingdom dearly as it angered neighbouring Ladakh who sieged the city and killed its rulers and their families.
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