Visit to a Monastery in Shangrila Yunnan

Songzanlin Monastery ShangrilaContinuing our travels in Yunnan province of China brought us to a small city variously called Shangrila, Shangri-La, Zhongdian, Jiantang or Gyaitang! And the airport is called Diquing. There are ethnic reasons for this surplus of names but it does make travel more stressful, trying to be sure we were heading in the right direction. In the early part of this century the name was changed to Shangrila in the hope of boosting tourism. Some call the name change crass but I think it is brilliant. Some towns put in some cobblestone paving hoping to attract more visitors. But changing the name of the whole place is a masterstroke. Nobody is sure where the mythical Shangri-La was based, so these people are using it anyway. Would you be more likely to visit Shangrila than Zhongdian, or Gyaitang? To complete the confusion, within the County/City/Town of Shangrila is the 1300-year old original townof Dukezong. Sadly a fire destroyed much of the old town earlier this year albeit with no human casualties.

Shangrila is at the top of Yunnan Province, and at about 3,300m above sea level is is the highest of the cities in the province. And the coldest. We’d come prepared although there were times when we were wearing all the clothing we had. Much of what we carried only got a wearing in Shangrila.

Shangrila  town is predominantly Tibetan and the countryside is entirely Tibetan. We’d toyed with including Tibet in our travels, but travel there is all highly organised and regimented, and expensive. We figured Shangrila would give us a near-Tibetan experience, and so it proved. Near yet far. Where better to start than the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery called variously Sangzanlin, Ganden Sumtsenling, and also known as Sungtseling and Guihuasi. Or as Little Potala Palace after the real Potala Palace in the real Tibet.

The Monastery is about 5kms out of town and we got adventurous and caught a local bus. We could see the monastery gleaming on the hilltop well before we got there.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery aka Ganden Sumtselling Monastery –  Shangrila

The front door is a beauty – very impressive.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

And the ceiling of the entrance hall is stunning.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

The monastery is a huge collection of temples and other buildings and alleyways and lots of steps.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

The reward is great views out over the monastery and surrounding area.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery – Shangrila in the distance

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Looking out from Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila. Shangrila in the middle distance. [Click on the picture to see the panorama better.]

The doorways and entrance-ways were wonderfully decorated.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Doorways at Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

It is an extraordinary jumble of buildings and alleys and stairs.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

The fireplaces seemed to be for burning incense and/or (juniper?) branches.The prayer flags are very Tibetan – wind-powered praying.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Prayer flags at Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Prayer flags at Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

It seems that life as a monk is not all about meditation. There is still rubbish to be dumped.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

It is a view that requires a wide-angle lens or a panorama feature to be able to capture the expanse of it all. Gleaming golden on the hilltop, it really is an awesome sight.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila. [Click on the picture to see the panorama better.]

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

Songzanlin Monastery Shangrila

What with all the steps and the altitude, exploring the monastery was quite enough adventure for one day.

This entry was posted in China travel 2014, Daily log and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Visit to a Monastery in Shangrila Yunnan

  1. Graeme Ward says:

    Hi Ross and Wyn
    Brilliant photos and great commentary. Many thanks for sharing your experiences.
    Regards
    Graeme
    Graeme Ward
    NZMCA # 31 347
    Abu Dhabi
    UAE

    • Ross says:

      Thanks Graeme. The tablet and the borrowed Olympus both did a good job, and what they couldn’t handle Lightroom helps a lot. To think I used to look scornfully at tourists waving iPads around!
      Regards
      Ross
      NZMCA #31 848 🙂

  2. gay dornbusch says:

    Beautiful pics once again and what gorgeous colours everything is. Thank you for sharing

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