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Tourists Flock to Find "Shangri-La" in SW China

When British writer James Hilton published his book "Lost Horizon" in 1933, he might never have thought that so many people from different nations would have crazily followed his fictitious, mysterious story in search of "Shangri-La", which is said to be a Tibetan word for the paradise, or an ideal place.

In the novel, four people, comprising a British consul and his deputy, a nun, and a "swindler" from the United States, took the same plane to flee from British India where a revolution was in the making. Unexpectedly, the plane was hijacked and finally landed in a place full of snow mountains, lamaseries, and people from different ethnic groups living together in a harmonic and peaceful manner.

Ever since the novel went off the press, many places in India, Pakistan, Nepal and China have claimed they are the very home to " Shangri-La". In the 1990s, most of the "Lost Horizon" fans or researchers turned their eyes to Deqing County in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, where people could find almost everything the author described in his novel.

People's interest in "Shangri-La" has brought a great opportunity to the Tibetan prefecture, which had for decades been plagued by poverty and a lack of ways to eradicate the poverty for local people. It has taken every chance to promote the Shangri-La- based local tourism industry, by trying hard to prove that it is the very place where the four fictitious foreigners had stayed and enjoyed the local culture, a mixture of the ethnic traditions of the Han People and Tibetans.

A series of domestic or international symposiums have been held in China, at which overseas and local scholars agreed that part of Deqing County is really similar to what James Hilton wrote, though there are some other places in China that have also displayed evidence to prove they are home to "Shangri-La".

Meanwhile, the local government has invested heavily in infrastructure and tourism facilities, with financial assistance from central and provincial governments as well as overseas investors.

"No matter whether there is a Shangri-La or not, Diqing will use its resources to develop tourism and relieve its poverty- stricken people," said a local official.

The efforts have paid off. Last year, over 1.2 million tourists including some 50,000 foreigners visited the Chinese "Shangri-La", bringing about a total of 500 million yuan in tourism earnings, or more than half of the local revenue.

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