Searching for Shangrila: Existential Authenticity, Buddhist Revival, and Ethnic Empowerment on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier

Gideon Elazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In 2001, the county of Zhongdian in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan province, was renamed Shangrila, after the monastery described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, and in allusion to the mythical Tibetan kingdom of Shambhala. Thereafter, work began on constructing the region as an easily accessible showcase for Tibetan culture. Based on fieldwork conducted in the Shangrila Thangka Academy, this article deals with the production and commodification of Tibetan Thangka scrolls. The multiple narratives presented in this article, in parallel and sometimes contradictory ways, center around authenticity—ranging from the preservation of Tibetan culture to the propagation of Tibetan Buddhism—and function as a cultural critique of Chinese society in the reform era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)878-907
Number of pages30
JournalModern China
Volume48
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

Keywords

  • Shangrila
  • Thangka scroll painting
  • Tibetan Buddhism
  • Yunnan

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