Because of the popularity of James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon, which introduced Shangri-La and is said have been written on an inspirational theme of "the Tibetan Buddhist Scriptures, where human beings, animals, and nature lived in harmony under the rule of a Tibetan", the Chinese authorities changed the name of Zhongdian County to Shangri-La County in 2001, basically to encourage tourism. The earlier names were – the Zhongdian (建塘镇 Jiàntáng Zhèn) to the Chinese, and Gyalthang (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་ཐང་རྫོང་) also known locally as 'Xianeggelila' to the Tibetans of the town which has predominantly Tibetan population.
Not sure if I'd be able to make it to Tibet I wanted to come here not just to go to Shangri-La but also to immerse myself in the local tibetan culture. From here I'd also travel north through the Tibetan parts of Sichuan in order to get a good grasp of the culture.
Coming from lovely weather on Tiger Leaping Gorge I was somewhat shocked to embrace the cold climate that Shangri-La brought. One nice highlight of my time was here seeing the Songzanlin Lamasery. (Also known as Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, Sungtseling and Guihuasi) The monastery, belonging to the Gelukpa order of Buddhism, was established by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1679. At one point they say over 2000 monks were in residence and now the number is closer to 700.