The Himalayas and other Far East
mountain ranges are positively packed to the gills with Buddhist villages full of wise monks who will teach weary Western travelers — especially the old Mighty Whitey
— to cast off ego, become one with the universe and attain true enlightenment. Also, to punch through people's heads
Despite being stuck up in a bunch of cold mountains, Shangri-La (alternatively Shangri La
) is usually shown as an idyllic and beautiful place, full of rare flora and fauna, and tended by little bald men in orange robes who beat gongs. Alternatively, it may be shown in a more realistic (though no less idealised) light, being cold and uncomfortable to those who are used to Western decadence.
Surrounding Shangri-La is an endless expanse of beautiful but dangerous mountain peaks, none of which feature ski slopes or extreme sports wankers with broken collarbones. Sometimes getting to the village or monastery requires a special Sherpa with secret knowledge, or for the mountaineer to be near death. Other times, it's just a case of turning a corner. Either way, there are definitely no tourists
Shangri La is almost universally based on Tibet, with the monkish religion a highly watered-down
variant of Lamaist Buddhism.
Hiding place for many a Utopia
. Yet finding it and getting in is usually a lot easier than getting out.
Expect the protagonist to encounter/get attacked by/make friends with a Yeti
Not to be confused with the light novel/anime series Shangri-La
, or the old 1970s all-girl band of the same name.
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Anime and Manga
- In The DCU, fighters travel to the city of Nanda Parbat in Tibet, where they learn alongside wise monks.
- Also there is no death there. Which makes it really suck when a guy dies on the doorstep.
- Likewise, in the Marvel Universe, Tibet is the one-stop-shopping place for all your power needs. (Drs. Doom, Druid and Strange, to name three).
- Marvel again: Atillan, home city of the Inhumans, is located in the Himalayan mountains. While it isn't entirely this tropes, some of the Inhumans (especially Karnak) use Magical Martial Arts.
- Tintin in Tibet has one of these villages. Bonus points: Includes an airplane crash and a yeti.
- Actually it is a bit of a subversion because the monastery is in a realistic portrayal of Tibet, it is just that one monk has visions (which is not that special, as the story begins with Tintin having one himself). Hergé apparently believed that yetis really exist and did quite a bit of research, e.g. talking to the French mountaineer Maurice Herzog, who claimed to have seen yeti tracks himself.
- In a story from the Tomb Raider comics, Lara Croft finds Shangri-La. However, she discovers that nobody can leave, and those who try are turned into yeti-like monsters that guard its walls. Lara brings an old caretaker from her childhood to Shangri-La, in exchange for her own release.
- The Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comic "Tralla La" is a satirical take on the idea of a moneyless utopia; the story also incidentally bears some similarity to The Gods Must Be Crazy (totally coincidental, given that the comic was published 27 years before that movie came out). It was later adapted into a DuckTales episode.
- Don Rosa did a sequel to the comic, in which it is revealed that Tralla La is in fact Xanadu, the place described in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan. Also, the Ducks unintentionally bring big trouble into peaceful Tralla La. Again.
- A yeti-guarded monastery plays an important part in the plot, being the place where Liz Sherman learns to control her powers. And the first BPRD story, Hollow Earth kicks off when this monastery gets invaded by subterranean monsters.
- A similar monastery serves as Memnan Saa's base of operations. In fact, it was central to his rise to power, as that was the place where he first learned to harness the powers of the ancient Hyperborean civilization.
- In Howard Chaykin's comic book series based on The Shadow, a sympathetic soldier-for-hire takes up both the Shadow alias and the Lamont Cranston identity when the real Cranston threatens to violently exploit Shambala.
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor features the idealistic version. Also yetis.
- Batman Begins sends Bruce Wayne to the mountain commune of Nanda Parbat learn combat and stealth. Then after his training, he finds out they're all Knights Templar.
- The heroes of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) go to Shangri-La in 1939, probably inspired by the novel Lost Horizon, described below. Given a tragic edge in that the Shangri-La monks take care of a man made sick from radiation poisoning.
- The first film in the Librarian series uses this trope: it has the heroes (and villain) search for and visit Shangri-La in the Himalayas during their quest to find the other two missing parts of the Spear of Destiny. It is, given the movie in question, probably not entirely surprising that it is an improbably warm, sunny and idyllic place filled with Buddhist monks and luscious green landscaping, despite literally being surrounded by deadly-cold ice and snow.
- The titular hero from Bullet Proof Monk hails from a Shangri La-style Tibet, and uses his ancient wisdom to school a cocky American pickpocket.
- The Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child.
- The Shadow opens with Lamont Cranston as a vicious opium lord in (apparently) Tibet; he is reformed and taught the mystic arts of projective telepathy by a lama.
- In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the titular character spends time studying with remote monks in a fantastical Shamgri-La, where he presumably learns his mystical powers.
- At the start of the story, he is the abbot of the monks. He is tempted by Mr. Nick, and sets out to the world to prove that creativity and good will can overcome people's base urges.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, the last refuge of the mutants in 2023 is an abandoned temple or monastery atop some windswept mountains in China.
- Older than Television: The trope takes its name from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon, which featured the fictional village of Shangri-La in the Kun-Lun Mountains and inspired numerous takeoffs.
- Lost Horizon itself is based on a real-life legend of the lost valley of Shamballa, which really is supposed to be like this trope. The legend is used by such western mystics as Madame Blavatsky and T. Lobsang Rampa, who claim secret knowledge from old Tibet.
- The myth of Shamballa goes back centuries, since a bunch of Jesuit priests visited the Buddhist kingdom thought to be Shamballa back in the 17th century and described it as a paradisiacal, serene place where no living things were harmed. The king was especially tolerant of the Jesuits and allowed them to build a church there. Unfortunately, a rival Buddhist kingdom sacked Shamballa when they found out the king was letting in Jesuits.
- Terry Pratchett frequently satirises this trope:
- The Discworld has "Enlightenment Country" in the Hubland mountains, which is packed to the gills with different sects of monks, including the History Monks, the Monks of Cool, the Yen Buddhists, and the Listening Monks. What's more, sometimes young monks will leave their monasteries to seek enlightenment in the big city, because according to Pratchett "Wisdom is the one thing that looks bigger the farther away it is."
- Truckers has the Klothians, a mystical society of Store nomes who live on the top floor of the Store, and get their food from the staffroom rather than the delicatessen (meaning they live on tea and yoghurt).
- Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Nine Billion Names of God", which is about Tibetan monks purchasing a computer to help them calculate the aforementioned names so that the universe may achieve its purpose and be destroyed by God.
- In Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, a teenage Jesus travels to one of these with his best friend Biff. Yes, that Jesus.
- In The Shadow pulp novels, the Shadow learned the power to cloud men's minds in Shamballa.
- Grandmaster by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran had Rashimpur, a quintessential example of this trope complete with requisite Mighty Whitey.
- Shambhala in Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez.
Live Action TV
- No Reservations actually went to one of the Tibetan villages that renamed themselves Shangri-la (see Real Life below), and mentions the portrayal in Lost Horizon. Even if it wasn't really Shangri-La, it's got monks, yaks, snow, mountains and friendly natives, and is quite beautiful in its way.
- The protagonists of The Champions have their plane shot down over a Shamgri-La, and the wise and powerful locals heal them and incidentally give them super powers.
- Exalted: Qaf, the Heaven-Violating Spear, is a demon-prince-slash-genius-loci Shangri-La. If you climb it/him, you'll eventually find the wisdom you're looking for. Since he's a demon, things are far from peaceful on his slope. It's also implied that he's infinitely tall.
- Tomb Raider II has the level Barkhang Monastery towards the end of the game. It is one of the biggest and most impressive levels in the game, complete with a giant statue and monks who help you fight the enemies.
- The plot of Uncharted 2 centers on the search for Shamballa, where the game's climax occurs.
- In Might and Magic IV: Clouds of Xeen, Shangri-La is an underground town. Notable because unless you know the shortcut, you have to fight your way through demon-filled caverns to get there.
- This is one of the major areas in The Journeyman Project 3. Built into the side of a steep mountain pass, the monastery had advanced mechanisms to protect itself and its secrets from trespassers as well as geothermal tunnels which utilized steam to heat a green house containing several now-extinct plant species. A battle between two alien races caused an avalanche, destroying the monastery.
- Interestingly, when you first enter, you encounter a rather hostile guard with a black eye. Later on, you find out who gave him the black eye - Genghis Khan, who came to Shangri-La to gain knowledge that would allow him to defeat his enemies. Disillusioned, he plans to leave... a day before the monastery is destroyed.
- The prologue of Dreamfall follows Brian Westhouse, an adventurer from Boston, who is sent to a parallel universe by the helpful monks of an unspecified Tibetan monastery.
- Shangri-La is one of the levels in Conduit 2.
- Although it's located in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Scandinavia, the Throat of the World from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a bit of this vibe. It's the tallest mountain on the entire continent, people regularly climb it as a form of pilgrimage, and at the very top is a secretive monastery inhabited by an order of monks that have lived on the mountain from a young age and obtained mystical powers from years of meditation. Bonus points for being guarded by a frost troll (basically the closest thing to a yeti in the game).
- In the TaleSpin episode "Last Horizons", Baloo seeks out and discovers the mythic "Panda-La" to become famous. Then the "enlightened, peaceful" populace subverts the trope by following him back home and invading. The Chinese stereotyping in this episode was strong enough that some Chinese-Americans complained rather loudly, and the episode was pulled from reruns.
- "The Gates of Shambala", A Tale Spin comic from Disney Adventures, offers a straighter version of the trope.
- Futurama episode "Godfellas" features an ashram that doubles as a parabolic radio telescope.
- The Air Temples of Avatar: The Last Airbender served as these for the Air Nomads. But, after the Air Nomads were wiped out, they fell into disrepair.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius had Shangrillama, a cut-paste The Shangri-La, only with Llamas.
- In Chill Out, Scooby-Doo!, during their ice cold adventure, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy discover The Shangri-La, which contains crystals that the bad guy wanted.
- In the Jem episode, "Journey to Shamgri-La", both the Holograms and the Misfits search The Shangri-La to discover a new music.
- In one episode of Taz-Mania, the Platypus brothers discover the lost city of Platy-La in their attic. (It's a really big attic.) One of them initially mistakes it for Shangri-La, even though the architecture is Greek, and it's not in the mountains, and it's in Australia.
- In Cyberchase there's a cybersite called Shangri-La run by one Master Pi. Though it actually is generally peaceful and harmonious, the guards are obligated to carry out the orders of the current leader... even if that leader is "The Hacker". And sometimes you have to play Nim with dragons for your freedom or something.
- In Animalympics, a canine ski-jump champion gets lost while mountain-climbing, and either finds or hallucinates finding "Dogra-La", an all-doggy version of this trope.
- Shamballa appears in Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "The Bangalore Falcon". It's a mystical land in the Indian mountains which appears every 500 years, and houses the titular blue falcon (no, not him), among other exotic flora and fauna, as well as the River of Eternal Life.
- The 1990s The Incredible Hulk series had Bruce Banner try to subdue his Unstoppable Rage Super-Powered Evil Side persona, but then of course, by the end of the episode has to release it again.
- There are actual cities, towns and regions bearing the name Shangri-La in Tibet, renamed to draw tourists.
- While mind-affecting blue flowers à la Batman Begins were (thankfully!) omitted, the real Himalayas do harbor such endangered wildlife as the snow leopard and markhor, making this one of the cooler segments of the Planet Earth documentary series. The trope's breathtaking landscapes are justified too.
- Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is a hotel chain that manages 66 hotels around the world.
- The Ahnenerbe actually visited Tibet, viewing it as the homeland of the Aryan race.
- Heinrich Harrer's memoir Seven Years In Tibet (1952) was far less idealized compared to its 1997 Hollywood rendition - while being deeply impressed by the scenery, the nature and the architectural wonder of Potala, the way of living for Real Life Tibetans was less idyllic.
- To the point that during their initial appearance in 1955 the Chinese were actually welcomed by the most of populace. For one thing they abolished the traditional practice that bound the majority of Tibetans into an indentured servitude to the monasteries, and genuinely tried to develop the land. Only after the 1959 anti-Chinese rebellion and their retaliatory measures that included the attempts to stomp down the influence of the lamas did it go From Bad to Worse.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, when asked where the bombers used for the Doolittle Raid on Japan were launched from during World War IInote , claimed that they had been launched from a base in Shangri-La. The U.S. Navy actually launched an aircraft carrier named the USS Shangri-La later in the war as a reference to Roosevelt's quote.
- The alleged mystical and metaphysical qualities of Shangri-La are of great interest to Fortean Times. This magazine treats hoaxes and delusions as interesting phenomena in their own right and worthy of discussion and analysis.