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Shangri-La

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the novel, Lost Horizon, written by British writer James Hilton in 1933. In it, "Shangri-La" is a mystical and harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Himalayas. Thus Shangri-La, while never losing its initial Himalayan setting, has become a byword for a mythical utopia - a permanently happy land, isolated from the world.

There are a number of European Shangri-La legends. The Odyssey reports the land of the Lotus-Eaters, and the palace of Alcinous. For other lost dream-kingdoms, see Atlantis, Lyonnesse, El Dorado.

Several possible legendary sources for Hilton's fiction have been suggested, in the Buddhist world between northern India and Western China. In China, Tao Qian of the Jin Dynasty described a Shangri-La in his Story of the Peach Blossom Valley, for example. The legendary Ku Lun Mountains offer other Shangri-La sources.

There are also probably a number of modern Shangri-La pseudo-legends, those which have developed since 1933 in the wake of the novel and the film made from it. Today, various places claim the title, such as parts of north-western Yunnan province, including the tourist destination of Lijiang.

In Chinese, Shangri-La is translated as 世外桃源 (pinyin shwatoyun; literally 'the peach river-source away from the world'), from Tao Qian's work.

A large international hotel chain also uses the name Shangri-La, and an aircraft carrier of World War II was named USS Shangri-la.

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