Songzanlin Lamasery   Shangri-la?

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According to our Bangkok Airways in-flight magazine "a careful study and investigation has established that the beautiful Shangri-La described in James Hilton's 'The Lost Horizon' is in the Zhongdian area"
 An American plane flying the Sino Indo route during World War 2 did crash land in this area, on a red soil plateau surrounded by rushing rivers and mountains.  Rising from the plain was a lamasery.  Could this  Lamasery at the foot of Fopingshan Mountain be that Lamasery?  Who knows, but we like to think we really were in Shangri La, the land of 'sacredness and peace'
We climbed the 146 steps,  no mean feat at an altitude of 3300m and were confronted by an amazing sight, dancing monks

Assembling at the far end of the courtyard the monks advance in lines arms outstretched, turn to face the temple and dropping to their knees twist and gyrate before forming lines and advancing  again from the other end

A man in a grey suit and Stetson was putting them through their paces.  He had two days until the day of the festival of 'The Great Leap' but needed a 'month of Sundays

 

 We found ourselves wondering if the monk wearing the Playboy tee shirt knew it's significance

There was no shortage of spectators
I had expected sombre pious monks but found these fun loving ones instead.   Even the serious looking group on the left broke up when Jasmine showed them their image on her digital camera
 
High up under the roof a young monk lives and works, preparing the meals for the head of the Lamasery
On the morning of the festival just as truck loads of elaborately costumed monks were arriving in the old town we had to leave

Oh for just one more day in Zhongdian

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