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Dukezong Ancient Town, Shambhala on Earth

 
Though primitive and rustic in appearance, Dukezong Ancient Town(独克宗古城), “Shambhala on earth” or “city of moonlight”, is unrestrained and holy in nature. It boasts the biggest and best-preserved Tibetan folk residence complexes in China. Its 1300 years of history is an eclectic infusion of turmoil wars, economic boom propelled by Tea Horse Road as well as religion renaissance. Under its aged shell, cotemporary charm throbs and bewilders. Many visitors have come, but few walk in and touch its soul. How can you understand a one-millennium-old town without knowing its history, which is laden with trauma, romance, memory and enduring legacy?
 
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The story of this unassuming town starts over 1300 years ago. A tulku(Living Buddha) was fascinated by Turtle Hill bathed in the morning glow which took after Padmasambhava (a most revered India Buddha living in the 8th century who helped to spread Buddhism to neighboring countries) sitting on lotus petals. Inspired by this auspicious omen, this tuklu fashioned a town after Shambhala paradise, the ultimate pure land living in mythology and romanticized by Tibetan Buddhism. From this sense, Dukezong Ancient Town is a metaphor and totem in itself. Mooring on the shore of time, Dukezong is not for sensuous sightseeing, but for soul-searching meditation.
 
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According to Tibetan Buddhism sutra, Shambhala is a lotus-shaped land encircled by inaccessible and formidable snow mountains. Its eight petals spread out gracefully, with each containing 120 million villages. Kalapa, its capital, is illuminated by sparkling diamonds rare seen in this world. During night, the radiance from jewelry will make it city without night. Just like all Utopia in the world, Shangbala is a land without pain and sorrow, poverty or war, jealousy, tyranny and crime. In this heaven, snow-dusted peaks tower above pristine azure lakes, forests greet rolling grasslands, serene villages lost amid flower-carpeted and perfumed gardens. Tibetans believe in only the most noble and pure souls can enter this divine kingdom.
 
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Made of stone and white clay, Dukezong clings to the ragged terrain tightly. Roads are as winding as its history which is full of twists and turns. Staring on the cobbled path, you can still discern hoofprints, which evoke its past as a key stop along Tea Horse Road. Thanks to white clay, houses in this spiritual anchor shimmer against the moonlight and breathe an air of mystique and divinity defying explanation. In Tibetan language, Dukezong, means “ a castle above stones” or “Moonlight City”, and both are veritable titles. During the past, it echoed Sunshine City( a solitary castle perched on the hill near Naizi River not far away) and constituted a paired up spectacle. Pity Sunshine City surrendered to the erosion of time and all it remains is a big White Pagoda which stands alone.
 
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For those veteran wayfarers traversing along this path year in and year out, Dukezong, a place where romantic Yunnan meets the deeply-religious Tibet, promises an inviting bed and food. Physically, it differentiates the cozy life in Yunnan and the harsh high plateau life in Tibet. Spiritually, it serves as the prelude of a more overwhelming spiritual feast awaits ahead, a place which rises as the Roof of the World. Since road condition in this area is superb, both the horses and merchants can feel total relaxed. These stout businessmen will huddle in the warm wooden houses, mesmerize their audiences with fantastic anecdotes occurring during the journey, enjoy a bowl of steamy and aromatic Yak Butter Tea or seek a moment of tranquility through smoking.
 
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If you are looking for the glamour of the Old Town of Lijiang in Dukezong Ancient Town, i am afraid you will feel disappointed. But if the history of Tea Horse Road and Tibetan culture are your cup of tea, Dukezong does have its share of charm which time fails to take away. Unique and irreplable, Dukezong Ancient Town is waiting for you to walk in, rather than come by.
 
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Taboos
Do not use the chopsticks to knock the bowls and animals
Do not whistle or wear a hat within the house
Avoid show the Buddha your back
Avoid topics of sex
Do not walk above the fireplace or dry your shoes, clothes or socks above it
 
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Opening Time: 8:30---23:00
Address: Shangri-La County, Diqing, Yunnan
Advised Tour Time: 4 hours
 
 
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Author: Sophia    Posted on June 9, 2013
Yuanyang Travel Tips
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