Songzanlin Monastery

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Located in the north-western part of Yunnan Province, Shangri-La, formerly known as Zhongdian, is actually an ugly town. I refuse to call it Shangri-La after I visited it.

Located in the north-western part of Yunnan Province, Shangri-La, formerly known as Zhongdian, is actually an ugly town. I refuse to call it Shangri-La after I visited it.

It is said that this was the place John Milton described in his renowned novel “Lost Horizon” and the local government decided to change its name to Shangri-La in a bid to promote tourism. Well, this strategy was obviously very successful, at least on me. I was warned it was not as pretty as advertised by the people I met on the road or in the Youth Hostel, but still I decided to go there and see with my own eyes. My French buddy had the same idea, so we went there together.

Although Zhongdian is part of Yunnan Province, the people there are mostly Tibetan. After all, it is only 300 kilometres away from the Yunnan-Tibetan border. With an altitude of 3700 metres, Zhongdian is much higher than Lijiang and Dali. You can easily feel the lack of oxygen here, but we managed to get ourselves used to it after a night of good sleep. It was August when we were there, but still it was freezing at night. Be sure to bring more clothes if you are determined to go.

We hired a taxi driver the next day after we arrived and spent most of the day in a national park outside of the town. The tickets were really expensive considering this is such a small town. The sceneries were great I’d say, but not really impressive. On our way back to town, we asked to the taxi driver to take us to Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province. We were amazed to see how magnificent the architecture was, after all those disappointments.

“Let’s pretend we are at the Potala Palace now that we cannot go to Tibet this time,” my French buddy said.

Well, Songzanlin Monastery really looked like the Potala Palace in appearance! Just smaller in size. The monastery seems like a group of ancient castles and is composed of two lamaseries, Zhacang and Jikang. The gilded copper roof endows the monastery with strong Tibetan features and the 108 (an auspicious number in Buddhism) columns downstairs also feature the monastery with characteristics of Han nationality. The main halls in the monastery are magnificent, and on both the left and the right sides are wonderful frescos, depicting Buddhist tales and legends. The inside-halls are exquisite with cloisters running through. The cloisters are all decorated with beautiful sculptures and consummate frescos.

We spent the rest of wandering in the monastery and left there without regret of coming to Zhongdian.

written by saviorjosh on 2008-04-27 in #world #locations

One Comment

  1. weidong
    weidong ·

    i have been there too!!! dreamful place and peaceful peoples!!! nice article as well!

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