Secrets of Shangri-La

Secrets of Shangri-La

Wed, 02/03/2010 - 8:00pm
In an attempt to unravel an age-old mystery, an international team of the most daring mountain climbers and explorers joined forces with a “dream team” of archaeologists, anthropologists and art historians to climb into history and uncover new secrets about the origins of Tibetan Buddhism.

Credit: Kris Erickson ©2009 National Geographic

High in the Himalaya, in the most remote kingdom in the world, explorers have found thousands of mysterious caves. Their dark portals beckon with the promise of a glimpse into a lost world.

In the legendary Kingdom of Mustang, a remote corner of the Himalaya previously off-limits to outsiders, a team of explorers and scientists climbs for the first time into human-carved caves thousands of years old. They find priceless 14th-century wall paintings, ancient human remains and a centuries-old hidden library of sacred texts that may reveal some secrets about Shangri-la. SECRETS OF SHANGRI-LA airs Wednesday, February 3 at 8 p.m. on on WXXI-TV (DT 21.1/cable 1011 and 11).


 In an attempt to unravel a mystery, seven-time Everest summiter Pete Athans and a team of internationally renowned climbers and explorers journeyed to Mustang, joining forces with archaeologists, anthropologists and art historians. SECRETS OF SHANGRI-LA follows their excursion to enter long-hidden caves and rescue rare Tibetan texts from crumbling landscape before looters get to them. The texts are adorned with beautiful “illuminations,” small paintings worth tens of thousands of dollars on the international art market.
As they prepare to climb into the caves, the Lo Manthang Youth Club, a political group from a nearby village, tries to stop them. What ensues is an intriguing set of events involving the King of Mustang, the highest lama of the land and even the divinities that are believed to inhabit the area.
“These caves are probably the most reliable indicator of the continuous history of this area,” said Oxford University anthropologist Charles Ramble, who has studied this culture for 28 years and has lived among the Mustang people. “The kinds of things we find in there, from the archaeological record to perhaps the richest literary repository we’ve found, means that these really are the places on which we need to focus if we want to establish as full as possible a picture of the history and culture of the Himalaya.”