Letter from the Founder


I first read James Hilton’s Book Lost Horizon, the story of Shangri-la, when I was a young girl in California.  It was the tale of an imaginary place where people lived in harmony with each other hidden in a remote valley in the mountains of far away Asia. Where time stood still and the harmonious atmosphere inspired its inhabitants to live in friendship and peace with each other.  When my husband invited me to go with him to Yunnan and visit Shangri-la in Sept 2004, I could not imagine what sort of town this real life Shangri-la would be.  Would it live up to such a famous name so filled with emotion and meaning? My love affair with this magical mountain town began when we stepped out of the airplane at Deqin airport. Our busy lives in Beijing suddenly felt worlds away.  We had come to a new world, an ancient place of great natural beauty. There in the hills stood the majestic Sonzenling Buddhist Monastery, the glow of the golden roof tops sparkled above the little town nestled in the valley, this place called Shangri-la.  Later that day, when we took our first walk in the Old Town, we saw beautiful old Tibetan homes lining winding narrow streets.  We saw lovely Tibetan ladies walking through these lanes in colorful dress. We stopped in one of the many delightful cafes along the main street, invited in by the warm welcome of Ma Ge and Hazel, the proprietors, and sat by the cozy fire of the Tibetan wood stove that heated the whole room.  We drank puer tea and met the neighbors who dropped in on their way through town.  We discovered that artists, musicians, writers, photographers from big cities in China and abroad came here regularly to spend time relaxing, working and enjoying this delightful little community.   I never imagined I would find the deep feeling of connection and inspiration that greeted us here in the Old Town.

I hope you enjoy reading about our Handicraft Center in Shangri La.  This project began in 2006 and has since become a regular Shangri La feature.   The Handicraft Store sells authentic local crafts from the many ethnic communities in the region.  English classes attract artisans, students, entrepreneurs who wish to practice conversation and brush up on their language skills.  Friends from other parts of China and abroad have come to visit us in Shangri la and have enjoyed learning more about the rich cultural heritage of this little corner in the mountains of Yunnan with us.

We, at The Handicraft Center, are thankful for the friends we have made during our time in Shangri la.  So many have given us great feedback and encouragement to carry on with our community projects.  Thanks to the volunteers who are featured in this website for their enthusiasm and energy and contribution they have made giving time and talent to our undertakings.  Thanks to our friends in Shangri La, our neighbors and partners, who share our love for this beautiful mountain region.

We look forward to meeting you in Shangri La!

Best Wishes, Carter Malik April 2009