25 October, 2020

Literary Coup

Literary Coup
It is a freezing minus 8 degrees C when I get off the plane at Zhongdian. The sunlight is sharp and the sky a flawless Tibetan blue. This town, in the remote northwest of China's Yunnan province, has been renamed Shangri La by the Chinese authorities. Whether this is indeed the site of the mythical paradise that James Hilton, the author of Lost Horizons, had in mind is highly debatable.

In Hilton's story, the doomed aircraft flies west to east along the Himalayas and crashes 'somewhere in Tibet'; Shangri La, at 12,000 feet on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, is as plausible a candidate as, say, Ladakh. So this claim is something of a marketing coup for the Chinese, even if "Shangri La" is painfully difficult for them to pronounce.

To my relief, my Tibetan guide speaks fluent Hindi, learnt from years at school in Dharamsala. I ask him what he thinks about Tibet's future. He hopes that the "one country two systems" formula, first applied to Hong Kong and now offered to Taiwan,...



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