'Lost Horizon' Found!

Previous
Next
  • Peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and silhouetted Naxi-style pagoda roof Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and silhouetted Naxi-style pagoda roof Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Naxi-style pagoda roof and peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Naxi-style pagoda roof and peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Reception girls in Naxi-style dress welcome guests to Banyan Tree Spa Resort, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Reception girls in Naxi-style dress welcome guests to Banyan Tree Spa Resort, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Reception girls in Naxi-style dress at Banyan Tree Spa Resort, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Reception girls in Naxi-style dress at Banyan Tree Spa Resort, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Octogenarian Naxi matriarch in traditional Naxi country dress, Baisha Village outside Lijiang, China. Octogenarian Naxi matriarch in traditional Naxi country dress, Baisha Village outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Octogenarian in traditional Naxi country dress at Baisha Village, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley, Lijiang, China with visiting American photojournalist, Dave Bartruff. Octogenarian in traditional Naxi country dress at Baisha Village, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley, Lijiang, China with visiting American photojournalist, Dave Bartruff. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Friendly Naxi matriarch expressing her age with both hands, Naxi village outside Lijiang, China. Friendly Naxi matriarch expressing her age with both hands, Naxi village outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Bearded Naxi elder in traditional dress with hat of badger fur, Lijiang, China. Bearded Naxi elder in traditional dress with hat of badger fur, Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Naxi-style pagoda and snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain framed in entrance of Banyan Tree Resort, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Naxi-style pagoda and snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain framed in entrance of Banyan Tree Resort, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Young women in Naxi-style dress at Longquan Village outside Lijiang, China. Young women in Naxi-style dress at Longquan Village outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Local woman working on threshing floor outside farm house in Jade Mountain Snow Valley, China. Local woman working on threshing floor outside farm house in Jade Mountain Snow Valley, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Naxi-style home of famed adventurer and botanist Joseph Rock who lived in Jade Mountain Snow Valley 1922-1949. Naxi-style home of famed adventurer and botanist Joseph Rock who lived in Jade Mountain Snow Valley 1922-1949. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Plaque at former residence of noted American-Austrian scientist J. F. Rock in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Plaque at former residence of noted American-Austrian scientist J. F. Rock in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Pagoda reflected in pond, Valley of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, China. Pagoda reflected in pond, Valley of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Classic Naxi calligrapher and pictogram scholar at The Museum of Naxi Culture, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Here exhibitions of ethnic Naxi dress and customs are presented. Classic Naxi calligrapher and pictogram scholar at The Museum of Naxi Culture, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Here exhibitions of ethnic Naxi dress and customs are presented. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Museum guide displays Naxi-style embroidery in The Museum of Naxi Culture, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Museum guide displays Naxi-style embroidery in The Museum of Naxi Culture, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Grandmother and grandson, in village in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley, Lijiang, China. Grandmother and grandson, in village in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley, Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Naxi pictograms. Naxi is worldÕs only large active language that is not written using alphabets or characters, Lijiang, China. Naxi pictograms. Naxi is worldÕs only large active language that is not written using alphabets or characters, Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Naxi trio crosses over Black Dragon Pool on marble bridge in Old Town Lijiang, China. Naxi trio crosses over Black Dragon Pool on marble bridge in Old Town Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Lantern decorated tea house and cafŽ, Dayan Old Town Lijiang, China. Lantern decorated tea house and cafŽ, Dayan Old Town Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Guest bedroom, one of three-room spa suites at Banyan Tree Resort on outskirts of Lijiang, China. Guest bedroom, one of three-room spa suites at Banyan Tree Resort on outskirts of Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Morning's "First Light" light on jagged peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Morning's "First Light" light on jagged peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • Travelers on horseback transit village in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Travelers on horseback transit village in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Valley outside Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • World-renowned herbal medicine expert, octogenarian Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu, native of Lijiang shows herbal medicines he produces at his Jade Dragon Snow Medical Clinic. World-renowned herbal medicine expert, octogenarian Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu, native of Lijiang shows herbal medicines he produces at his Jade Dragon Snow Medical Clinic. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • World-renowned herbal medicine expert, octogenarian Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu, founder of the Jade Dragon Snow Medical Clinic in Baisha Village, Lijiang, China. World-renowned herbal medicine expert, octogenarian Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu, founder of the Jade Dragon Snow Medical Clinic in Baisha Village, Lijiang, China. Photo by: Dave Bartruff
  • World-renowned herbal medicine expert, Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu at his Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Clinic with calligraphy brush writes his best prescription for good health: "Kindness!" World-renowned herbal medicine expert, Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu at his Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Clinic with calligraphy brush writes his best prescription for good health: "Kindness!" Photo by: Dave Bartruff

LIJIANG, China, August 26, 2013 — Countless readers of the classic adventure novel by the British writer James Hilton have long been fascinated by the concept of some far off utopia of contentment; a paradise far removed from the cares and struggles of the real world of the here and now.

I was one of those readers, but as most, dismissed the idea of actually ever finding any such place. It was, after all, just make-believe.


SEE RELATED: California & Spain: Pilgrim exchanges, Friar Junipero Serra


But then, the opportunity to travel to China presented itself.  And I discovered one of my destinations was Lijiang, the ancient spiritual capital of its ethnic Naxi inhabitants.  Located in remote Yunnan Provence in southwest China it faces mystical Tibet in the foothills of the great Himalayan Mountains.

Again I read in the pages of “Lost Horizon”: “But it was to the head of the valley that his eyes were led irresistibly, for there, soaring into the gap, and magnificent in the full shimmer of moonlight, appeared what he took to be the loveliest mountain on earth. It was so radiant, so serenely poised that he wondered for a moment if it were real at all.”

That, of course, was fiction but yet I still hoped to see if there wasn’t at least some glimmer of reality in the place that Hilton called “ Shangri-La” when I reached remote Lijiang.

Centuries ago, nomadic Tibetan tribes settled here, and to this day have maintained their intrinsic customs, language and dress.

Arising before the sun my first morning in Lijiang, I witnessed dawn’s first light gently illuminate the jagged peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain one by one. As with the character in Hilton’s novel, my first glimpse of Lijiang proved that there was a real Shangri-La after all.

Lijiang was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and its Old Town, or Dayan, dates back more than 500 years. It is a labyrinth of classic tile-roofed row houses, shops and cafes along narrow cobbled streets bereft of vehicular traffic. My exploration of the town first took me to the Dongba Research Institute. Here the Naxi religion (called Dongba) and its art crafts are displayed while artisans and crafts people work in age-old ways and dress. 

From a brush painter copying classic Dongba scrolls, I learned that Naxi is the only remaining world language that is written in pictographs instead of alphabets or characters.

Further wandering took me to the Black Dragon Pool at the center of the town’s Jade Spring Park. Here many exquisite antique Naxi-style architectural treasures take the form of pagodas and pavilions.  While in the distance, adding further drama to the postcard scene: the backdrop of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.


SEE RELATED: Mt. Rushmore: Communing with presidents past on the 4th of July


Outside town and tucked away from the usual tourist paths, I explored the tranquil valley settlement of Nguluko. Here, long ago, another seeker in quest of his own Shangri-La arrived from afar and settled in 1922. That was the eccentric Austrian-born linguist, anthropologist, botanist and photographer, Joseph Rock. Rock lived out his dream here and by the time he departed in 1949, he had compiled the first dictionary of the Naxi culture.  And he led the first field expeditions into the Himalayas for the National Geographic Society. His expeditions departed only after his own portable bathtub and gold dinner service and other eccentricities were fully accounted for and secured on the backs of his expedition porters.

My last day in the Valley of Dragon Snow Mountain concluded with a visit to Baisha Village, the old capital of Naxi Kingdom until AD 1271.  By no means did it look like a place of importance any more. Its narrow dusty lanes were nearly deserted.  But under the branches of a weeping willow tree growing in front of a ubiquitous shop front, I spotted a hand-drawn sign that read in English, “The Most Admired Man.”

I slid open the entrance door and there to greet me with a handshake and a cheery “Welcome” in English was a slight, white-bearded Naxi elder. He apologized for his “poor English” (although I considered it quite refined). He said he learned it during WWII from American airmen of the famed “Flying Tigers” based in Lijiang when he was a teen. 

He wore a black wool stocking cap like sailors do when out on deck on a stormy sea, and a white lab coat. He introduced himself as Dr. Ho Shi-Xiu, age 85, a native of Lijiang and a physician. He said this was his Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Chinese Herbal Medical Clinic.

The kindly Dr. Ho had tea served, and then spoke of his background: suffering from a complicated ailment after graduating from Nanjing University and finding no cure for it with Western medicine.  Returning home he delved into the study of Chinese medicinal herbs.  He not only cured himself, he said, but treated others with his natural remedies free of charge if need be. 

Through the years, nearly a third of a million patients from more than 100 countries have visited him to seek medical advice. Famed medical institutions like the Mayo Clinic consult with him today about his successful treatment of leukemia using medicinal herbs.

As I was to depart, Dr. Ho took his calligraphy brush and with four bold strokes created a single Chinese character on parchment paper that he gave to me as a remembrance of our visit.  I asked him its meaning. With a warm smile, he said, “Kindness, my best prescription for good health.” 

With Dr. Ho’s parting benediction I felt assured I had found exactly what I was searching for in the faraway “Shangri-La” of my dreams. Not perpetual youth nor profound wisdom, true, but a sense of peace and a new commitment of being more of a blessing to others.

Travel Notes:  Abercrombie & Kent pioneered luxury travel to China in 1962.  Its next exclusive 17-day departure to mesmerizing Lijiang is May, 2014 limited to 18 guests and will include a cruise of the Yangtze River by luxury boutique vessel, a visit to Xian’s Terra Cotta Warriors, a walk atop China’s Great Wall and more.

According to A&K’s founder, Geoffrey Kent, “Our guests do not sacrifice comfort for adventure worldwide.”  A&K has over 50 offices around the world delivering inspiring experiences on every continent.  Contact: www.abercrombiekent.com


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Images from Dave Bartruff's World
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
Dave Bartruff

California-based Dave Bartruff is an award-winning photojournalist who has traveled to more than ninety countries.

Column Description: “Faraway places with strange-sounding names” is my middle name.  I’d like to introduce myself to you as often as I can.

 

Contact Dave Bartruff

Error

Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Featured
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus