THE ‘OTHER’ SHANGRI-LA:: Journeys through the Sino-Tibetan frontier in Sichuan- Shivaji Das
The ‘Other’ Shangri-La is a work of narrative non-fiction based on Shivaji Das and his wife’s journey through the SinoTibetan frontier land of western Sichuan.It describes the rugged landscape of this region that comprises 7,000-metre-high mountains, deep gorges, vast grasslands and the world’s most dangerous roads. It also explores the region’s history and the peculiarities of its scattered settlements: Litang—the world’s highest town that is also the birthplace of important lamas; Larung—the world’s largest monastery and highest slum; Danba—a ‘Beauty Valley’ famed since antiquity for its good-looking and strong-minded women; Yading—a pilgrim circuit once terrorized by bandit monks; and Kangding—a small town that gave birth to China’s favourite love song.
Along their journey, the travelling duo indulged in several adventures that are written about humorously in this book—staying with nomad families, debating with monks on reviving Buddhism in China, getting spooked by a bone-collector at a sky-burial site, becoming investigators in a love triangle in the ‘Beauty Valley’, and running away from paparazzi tourists who mistook the travellers as participants in a local beauty contest.
Above all, this book explores in detail the lives and cultures of the people inhabiting these remote lands who are now subject to turbulent socio-economic factors. It also explores the testy relationship between Hans and Tibetans in what is arguably the most restless of the Tibetan-inhabited areas in China.