The story of the quest for a real-life Shangri-La in the darkest heart of the Himalayas– a century-long obsession to reach the sacred hidden center of one of the world's last uncharted realms.
At the far eastern end of the Himalayas in Tibet lies the Tsangpo River Gorge, known as “the great romance of geography” during the nineteenth century's golden age of exploration. Here the mighty Tsangpo funnels into an impenetrable canyon three miles deep, walled off from the outside world by twenty-five thousand foot peaks. Like the earthly paradise of Shangri-La immortalized in James Hilton's classic 1933 novel Lost Horizon, the Tsangpo River Gorge is a refuge revered for centuries by Tibetan Buddhists–and later in Western imagination–as a sanctuary in times of strife as well as a gateway to nirvana.
The Siege of Shangri-La tells the story of this fabled land's exploration as both a geographical and spiritual destination–and chronicles the discovery at the end of the last millennium of the truth behind the myths and rumors about it. Veteran journalist Michael McRae traces the gorge's exploratory history from the clandestine missions of surveyor-spies called pundits and botanical expeditions of naturalists in the early twentieth century to the recent investigations of scholars, adventurers, and pilgrims seeking the "Hidden Falls," of the Tsangpo, which purportedly rivals Niagara in size and serves as the gateway to paradise. Each explorer's narrative provides increasing evidence of why the gorge has been mythologized in Eastern and Western lore as one of the world's most alluring blanks on the map–and a supreme test of human will.
Taking readers on a guided tour of the gorge's landscape, physical and metaphysical, McRae presents an insightful look at the pursuit of glory and enlightenment that has played out in this mysterious land with sometimes disastrous consequences. The Siege of Shangri-La is a fascinating journey through the inner recesses of a remote, mystical world and the minds of those who have attempted to reach it.
From the Hardcover edition.
About Michael McRae
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Published April 25, 2012
by Broadway Books.