In 1922 Austrian American Joseph Rock began exploring areas in Tibet and China including Yunnan, Sichuan and parts of Gansu. Rock was a botanist, explorer, linguist and ethnologist. He explored these areas studying the flora and fauna. He lived with different tribes and learned the different languages of the area. He wrote articles about the plants, people and languages of eastern Tibet and southern China. Many of these articles were published in National Geographic.
James Hilton was an English novelist who read many of Rock's articles in National Geographic. I first learned of James Hilton at LSU-S in a class of Dr. Martin's in which she told us that Hilton's novel, The Lost Horizon, was the first mass-market paperback published in America. The Lost Horizon was written in the 1930s. In this book Hilton describes a utopian civilization hidden and kept isolated from the rest of the world in the mountainous boarder lands between Tibet and China. Hilton named this utopia Shangri-La. Never having traveled to the area himself, Hilton based his description of the fictional Shangri-La on the writings of Joseph Rock.
In 2001, the Tibetan county of Zhongdian in the north of China's Yunnan province applied to the central government to change the name of the town and to request for money to be invested for the purpose of tourism. Instead of Zhongdian the town would now be know as Shangri-La. These changes were made to attract tourism and they have. Though still quite small, the town has grown rapidly in the last ten years.
Many women and some men in China wear glasses frames without lenses. These frames are usually very thick and most of the ones I've seen are black though they do come in other colors. They serve no function. There are no lenses in the frames so they don't help the wearer to see any better. Ask someone why she is wearing fake glasses frames and she will inevitably reply that they are fashionable. If you ask this person, who is usually in her mid-twenties, why anyone over the age of twelve would find this fad fashionable she will simply giggle and declare that she doesn't know but that it makes her face look better. Often people will insist that it makes them look more intelligent even though in reality it almost always makes them look ridiculously stupid.
Fake glasses alone is not enough though to be fashionable. To be truly envied as everyone here desires you must have a smartphone and not just any smartphone will do. The most coveted is the iPhone. If you don't have an iPhone not as many people will wish they were you. Everyone wants an iPhone and if you don't want an iPhone no one will understand why.
The problem with the iPhone is that it is expensive. The sticker price on an iPhone is easily a month's salary for many people. For some it's two month's salary. Most people can't afford that. Luckily for these poor wretched souls there is no need to lose face over not being able to afford the best. Even if copyright laws exist in China everyone ignores them. One of my recipe articles on Hubpages, for example, has been copied to a Chinese website. No one thought to ask me for permission or to offer me any compensation. They just did it and they probably don't think that there is any problem with this. Other than informing Google of the situation there isn't much that I can do. I guess I shouldn't complain too much since a third of the movies I watch in China I'm almost certain are pirated and the rest are questionable. You really only know for certain when it is an obviously cammed movie. Some of these you can't even tell unless someone stands up in the audience. If you restrict yourself only to movies that you've bought and paid for, you still have no idea whether or not the movie was pirated. So there isn't much you can do about this either.
But there is something that can be done if you want an iPhone and you can't afford one. You can simply buy a fake iPhone. Because those pesky little copyright laws don't really get in anyone's way here, fake iPhones are sold by myriad legitimate electronic stores and department stores all over China. They look just like iPhones. They're the same size, shape, and colors of real iPhones. They even say iPhone on them. The Apple logo is prominently displayed on the back of the phone just like with the real one. It even says Apple on the box. At least it says this in English. In Chinese the box usually does inform you that the phone is a fake one. A fake iPhone may be as much as a fourth of the cost of a real one. It will also comes with hundreds of free apps. With a fake iPhone you'll have every fake app that you could possibly want and more than you could ever use. This is a good thing because even though you can sometimes connect to the internet, the one thing you can't do with a fake iPhone is connect to the online Apple Store or download anything real. But don't worry, if you do download something from another website the last thing you will have to contend with is Apple's notoriously annoying DRM which makes you jump through a thousand little hoops to prove that you really do own what you are transferring to your device. Since it is a fake iPhone there really is no point in proving that you own what you've downloaded.
I have a very real Anycall, which has no apps, no games, nothing fancy. It can't even take any pictures. All it can do is send and receive real text messages and real phone calls. It cost much less than even a fake iPhone but if I had a fake iPhone I could do so much more and everyone would so want to be like me. Fortunately however my really cheap but very real phone has really done every real thing that I need a phone to do for the last two very real years.
The most recent holiday in China was National Day. Most people in China receive three to four days off for National Day starting October first. This year 100,000 Chinese people, who were unhappy with their appearance, spent their National Day Holiday visiting South Korea in order to get cosmetic surgery in order to make them look more attractive.
It would seem that I'm living in a wholly unvoracious world where the tourist attractions are built on a lie and most of the people who visit them wear fake glasses, use fake iPhones and have eyes, noses, lips and God knows what else that were not included in the original manufacture's designs. If they were products and not people the warranties would have long ago been voided. And you thought this would be a post continuing my travels in Yunnan... Well it's a fake one.
To be fair, Zhongdian is a nice little city. The area is beautiful and there is a subculture there that has only been marred slightly, so far, from the impact of tourism. However renaming the city Shangri-La for the sake of tourism is a bit misleading. It is also a bit unfair to to the various valleys and mountain towns throughout Yunnan, Sichuan and up into Tibet who believe that the descriptions of the fictional utopia more closely match their own geography.
In the fake Shangri-La I was happy to find some very real things. There was goat's milk butter tea and yak butter yogurt. There was yak meat and goat meat. There were men who herded goats and yaks for a living the way men in their families have probably herded animals for as long as anyone can remember. These are real men who have the custom of carrying very real knives hanging from their belts. Other people in China often describe the people of this area as barbarians. One of the reasons for this is the custom of the men for carrying knives. People from other areas tend to think that carrying a knife is a little bit aggressive. It has a certain hint of possible violence. Few people take the time to consider though the reasons behind this custom. Most of these men make their living by herding animals. Try to cut a piece of rope or free a calf that has gotten caught up in some brambles without a knife and see how far you get in that endeavor. These are real jobs that a real knife might help with. I also noticed that while the minority people who actually live in Zhongdian carried knives on their belts, none of them wore fake glasses. The only people I saw there with fake glasses were the Chinese tourist. Probably very few of them, if any, carry a smartphone of any kind. A bunch of uncivilized, red faced barbarians... that's all these people are.
And on goes the Skrullian invasion.
Here are some real pictures of the fake-fictional-utopian-city that calls itself Shangri-La.
Mud Slides and Van Rides