“Shangri-la” is a name that has worked its way into theEnglish language. Synonymous with "utopia", the word was first usedin 1933, coined by the English author James Hilton in his novel "LostHorizon."
Shangri-la was a fictitious paradise,characterized by towering snow-capped mountains, lush forests, vast gorges andidyllic lakes. The beautiful scenery described by Hilton made the name stick inpopular memory and arouses a certain curiosity and mystery whenever it isheard.
However, there is a real Shangri-la, locatedin the Diqing prefecture in Yunnan Province and it actually manages to live upto it's mythologized name.
A one-day trip to Shangri-la isn't nearlyenough, however it can help make one feel like the turmoil and stress of citylife has never been farther away.
Shangri-la's peaceful atmosphere could bedescribed as spiritual, and with the amount of religious heritage, that seemsquite a fitting description. Only about three kilometers from the downtownarea, Songzanlin Monastery, or "Little Potala" as it isaffectionately known, is a spiritual hub for people to discover the mystery andtraditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is also the largest and most importantTibetan Buddhism complex in Yunnan. The magnificent temple sits on top of ahill and faces a vast grassland that used to be smothered by a lake. On a sunnyday, the tiles of the temple glitter and shine a brilliant gold.
The journey up the steps that lead to the mainprayer hall can prove to be an arduous undertaking. However, it allows peopleto briefly experience the hardship of the pilgrimage route that generations ofBuddhists living on the plateau take every year.
The main hall in the center of the complexfeatures imposing pillars and murals, which vividly depict the traditions andbeliefs of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the "wheel of life" thatillustrates the six realms of existence—heaven， demigods, humankind, hell, hungry ghosts andanimals.
The incense drifting in wisps, the fragrantoil lamps and the number of old monks instructing younger ones, can give onethe impression that time has stood still in this little paradise since thecreation of the temple.
Bitahai Lake, also close to Shangri-la, isregarded as a "holy lake." In Tibetan, "bita" means"piece of land as soft as cattle hair" and the locals often call thelake "hai," or "sea" in Chinese.
The lake is surrounded by spruce-coveredmountains, and the water is tranquil and clear. If it is a bright day, you cansee schools of fish swimming deep below the surface.
The surrounding mountains are also spottedwith fields full of azaleas. Each year, in late spring and early summer, theflowers bloom. The wind carries the petals down into the lake and the fish riseto the top, vying with each other to eat them. These petals are slightlypoisonous and the fish become lethargic and slothfully, intoxicated by theflower's chemicals. This is an enchanting scene, known to the locals as"fish drunk by azalea." To preserve the delicate, natural harmony ofthe area, tourists are required to either walk or ride a horse around the lake.
In 1996December, Fujian Wuyi Mountains was honored as "World Cultural and NaturalHeritage" by the UN Organization of Science, Education and Culture. WuyiMountains is situated in the Wuyishan city, the northern part of FujianProvince； the main site is 60km2 inacreage, the average height of peaks is about 350 meters, it is a typical rosycloud landform； it is a place of interesting witha long history, and among the first group of tourist sites elected as thenational key tourist resort, Mrs. Barerke, president of the executive committeeof World Tourism Organization, described it as "the model of worldenvironmental protection". If you take a bamboo raft trip fleeting throughthe river, you will get quite a view of the water and the mountain, andparticularly, the raft coffin hanging on the cliff, it is a special andmysterious burial 3800 years ago.
Wuyi Mountains is thousands of kilometerslong, just like a green dragon flying among Min, Zhe, Gan and Yue, fourprovinces. The world famous Wuyi Mountains nature reserve of national level isjust located on the highest place of the northern part of Wuyi Mountains； it has the biggest acreage, best-preservedmid-subtropical ecological system in southeastern China. It is selected as aworld biological reserve and the A Reserve with world protection value by theUnited Nations. The natural condition inside the reserve is very advantageous,the forest cover is well preserved, biological resource is very rich, and thereare many rare birds and animals. 2466 kinds of higher plants, 840 kinds oflower plants, 475 kinds of spinal animals, and about 5000 kinds of insects havebeen formally named. There are 26 kinds of most valuable plants, 56 kinds ofnational first and second class valuable animals, in addition, several dozensof world rare breeds such as "Jiao Guai" can be found here.
Situatedin the western outskirts of Haidian District, the Summer Palace is 15kilometers (9.3 miles) from central Beijing. Having the largest royal park andbeing well preserved, it was designated, in 1960 by the State Council, as a KeyCultural Relics Protection Site of China. Containing examples of the ancientarts, it also has graceful landscapes and magnificent constructions. The SummerPalace is the archetypal Chinese garden, and is ranked amongst the most notedand classical gardens of the world. In 1998, it was listed as one of the WorldHeritage Sites by UNESCO.
Constructed in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234),during the succeeding reign of feudal emperors; it was extended continuously.By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it had become a luxurious royalgarden providing royal families with rest and entertainment. Originally called "QingyiGarden" (Garden of Clear Ripples), it was know as one of the famous"three hills and five gardens" (Longevity Hill, Jade Spring Mountain,and Fragrant Hill; Garden of Clear Ripples, Garden of Everlasting Spring,Garden of Perfection and Brightness, Garden of Tranquility and Brightness, andGarden of Tranquility and Pleasure). Like most of the gardens of Beijing, itcould not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French allied force and was destroyedby fire. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct itfor her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). She spentmost of her later years there, dealing with state affairs and entertaining. In1900, it suffered again, being ransacked by the Eight-Power Allied Force. Afterthe success of the 1911 Revolution, it was opened to the public.
Composed mainly of Longevity Hill and KunmingLake, The Summer Palace occupies an area of 294 hectares (726.5 acres), threequarters of which is water. Guided by nature, artists designed the gardensexquisitely so that visitors would see marvelous views and be amazed by perfectexamples of refined craftwork using the finest materials.
Centered on the Tower of Buddhist Incense(Foxiangge) the Summer Palace consists of over 3,000 structures includingpavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors. The Summer Palace can be dividedinto four parts: the court area, front-hill area, front-lake area, andrear-hill and back-lake area.
Front-Hill Area: this area is the mostmagnificent area in the Summer Palace with the most constructions. Its layoutis quite distinctive because of the central axis from the yard of Kunming Laketo the hilltop, on which important buildings are positioned including Gate ofDispelling Clouds, Hall of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Moral Glory, Tower ofBuddhist Incense, the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, etc.
Rear-Hill and Back-Lake Area: although theconstructions are fewer here, it has a unique landscape, with dense greentrees, and winding paths. Visitors can feel a rare tranquility, and elegance.This area includes scenic spots such as Garden of Harmonious Interest andSuzhou Market Street.
Court Area: this is where Empress Dowager Cixiand Emperor Guangxu met officials, conducted state affairs and rested. Enteringthe East Palace Gate, visitors may see the main palace buildings: the Hall ofBenevolence and Longevity served as the office of the Emperor, the Hall of JadeRipples where Guangxu lived, the Hall of Joyful Longevity, Cixi‘s residence, the Hall of Virtue and Harmonywhere Cixi was entertained.
Front Lake Area: covering a larger part of theSummer Palace, opens up the vista of the lake. A breeze fluttering, waves gleamand willows kiss the ripples of the vast water. In this comfortable area thereare the Eastern and Western Banks, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Nanhu Island, andso on. On the western bank float six distinct bridges amongst which theJade-Belt Bridge is the most beautiful.
Lying atthe center of Beijing, the Forbidden City, called Gu Gong, in Chinese, was theimperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Now known as the PalaceMuseum, it is to the north of Tiananmen Square. Rectangular in shape, it is theworld‘s largest palace complex andcovers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter highwall are 9,999 buildings. The wall has a gate on each side. Opposite the TiananmenGate, to the north is the Gate of Devine Might (Shenwumen), which facesJingshan Park. The distance between these two gates is 960 meters, while thedistance between the gates in the east and west walls is 750 meters. There areunique and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of thecurtain wall. These afford views over both the palace and the city outside. TheForbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section, or the OuterCourt was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. Thenorthern section, or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal family.Until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner Court,fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty hadreigned here. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, ithouses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. Listed by UNESCO as a WorldCultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is now one of the mostpopular tourist attractions world wide.
Construction of the palace complex began in1407, the 5th year of the Yongle reign of the third emperor of the Mingdynasty. It was completed fourteen years later in 1420. It was said that amillion workers including one hundred thousand artisans were driven into thelong-term hard labor. Stone needed was quarried from Fangshan, a suburb ofBeijing. It was said a well was dug every fifty meters along the road in orderto pour water onto the road in winter to slide huge stones on ice into thecity. Huge amounts of timber and other materials were freighted from farawayprovinces. Ancient Chinese people displayed their very considerable skills inbuilding the Forbidden City. Take the grand red city wall for example. It hasan 8.6 meters wide base reducing to 6.66 meters wide at the top. The angularshape of the wall totally frustrates attempts to climb it. The bricks were madefrom white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made from glutinous riceand egg whites. These incredible materials make the wall extraordinarilystrong.
Since yellow is the symbol of the royalfamily, it is the dominant color in the Forbidden City. Roofs are built withyellow glazed tiles; decorations in the palace are painted yellow; even thebricks on the ground are made yellow by a special process. However, there isone exception. Wenyuange, the royal library, has a black roof. The reason isthat it was believed black represented water then and could extinguish fire.
Nowadays, the Forbidden City, or the Palace Museumis open to tourists from home and abroad. Splendid painted decoration on theseroyal architectural wonders, the grand and deluxe halls, with theirsurprisingly magnificent treasures will certainly satisfy "moderncivilians".