Monday, February 20, 2012

Shangri-La and the Getu Valley

Anime often takes place in fictitious worlds or is loosely based on real world locations. Today, I'm going to show you two exotic locations in China / Tibet that have appeared in anime or would be an awesome location for one. You might even want to travel there yourself and have your own adventure!

Prayer Flags by timquijano
What does the name Shangri-La conjure up in your imagination for yourself?  To me, it meant a peaceful paradise where you could live a very long life.  I think this particular vision was influenced by reading the book "Lost Horizon" when I was young.  The ebook for it can be obtained in the public domain from Gutenberg Australia.

From Wikipedia "The concept of Shangri-La, as first described in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, is claimed to have been inspired by the Shambhala myth (as well as then-current National Geographic articles on Eastern Tibet). Shambala appears in several science fiction stories of the 1930s."

So here comes the anime connection from Fullmetal Alchemist Conquerors of Shambala.  Where Shambala is basically a version of Shangri-La, but not quite so peaceful.  There is also the manga / anime Shangri-La, but it is more a play or symbolic on the name.

In real world, the actual location of Shangri-La has been claimed by several places, but the one I'm going to focus on is the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet. The canyon is was carved out by the Yarlung Tsangpo River (The Everest of Rivers) which flows from the lower left side of the image to the right then angles northeast toward the upper right. It then makes a hairpin turn and continues to flow in a generally southward direction near the right-hand side of the image where it is all green. Further downstream, the river widens and becomes the Brahmaputra. Its waters eventually empty to the Bay of Bengal. As you can tell from the satellite image the river traverses very rugged mountainous terrain.
NASA EOSDIS Image of Yarlang Tsangpo River
The canyons carved by the river and the lower elevations it traverse have been identifed as an untouched environment with a diverse ecosystem that hosts endangered species like the snow leopard and other rare creatures.  After being closed to the west for a long time, the Chinese authorities granted access to the mysterious canyon to American explorer Richard D. Fisher in the 1990s to lead an expedition into the canyon and was able to determine that theYarlung Tsangpo Canyon was really deep.  The canyon's average depth is about 7,440 feet (2,268 m) with the deepest depth reaching 19,714 feet (6,009 m). This is one of the deepest canyons on Earth.  The myth of Shangri-la, as described in James Hilton's 1933 novel "Lost Horizons", is believed by a number of explorers to have been geographically inspired by the deepest gorges and waterfalls of the Tsangpo. A 30-meter (100-foot) waterfall had been reported by Kintup, an illiterate tailor from Sikkim who explored the Tsangpo for several years in the 1880's. However, the expedition led by Frank Kingdon-Ward in the 1920's discovered only a 21-meter (70-foot) waterfall (Rainbow Falls). The legendary 30-meter falls was not re-discovered until 1998.

Getu Valley
The Getu Valley is another fantastic sight to behold in China.  In this valley there is an absolutely stunning rock formation where it looks like a massive hole has been carved through a mountain.  It is huge and rock climbers are flocking their to try their skills out. The people are tiny in the images.  Petzl has filmed an expedition movie showing some of the stunning beauty of this place.

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