Today’s A Journey through Aesthetic Realms will be presented in Chinese, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Greetings, blessed viewers, and welcome to A Journey through Aesthetic Realms on Supreme Master Television. In 1933, British author James Hilton published a best-selling novel titled “Lost Horizon.”

The book portrays a peaceful paradise in a little-known territory of eastern Tibetan mountains called “Shangri-La,” where people enjoy a carefree life and incredible longevity. The manuscript was believed to be inspired by the travel logs of botanist Joseph Rock, who stayed in Lijiang in Yunnan Province of China to study the unusual flora of the area.

Today, in part one of a two-part series, please join us for a journey to this amazing utopia and experience its ethereal beauty.

Lijiang is nestled in the northwestern mountains of Yunnan where the Tibetan Highlands transition into the lower-lying Yungui Plateau. The high level of geotectonic activities of the region has over the years sculpted a rugged terrain with alternating high mountains and deep valleys. Three major rivers of Asia pass through this area.

They are Changjiang (Yangtze River), Mekong River, and Salween River. The Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site that features awe-inspiring sceneries and tremendous biodiversity.

Flowing in from the northwestern mountains, Changjiang, the world’s third longest river, takes a sharp V-turn, then heads towards the northeast. The turn is also called “the First Bend of Changjiang.” According to folklore, Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze were three traveling sisters. When they reached the Lijiang area, Salween and Mekong decided to go south, while Yangtze preferred to head towards where the sun rises. Therefore, she made a resolute turn and never saw her sisters again. Today the three sisters are the life-giving rivers of Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Âu Lạc (Vietnam), and China.

A few kilometers on her solo journey heading northeast, Changjiang meets the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge, where the roaring Yangtze gushes through 15 kilometers of a narrow path between the southerly Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the northerly Baha Snow Mountain, both measured at over 5,000 meters in height. With snow peaks, verdant forests, and steep valley, Tiger Leaping Gorge is among the world’s deepest gorges.

Folk story has it that a tiger jumped across the gap to escape peril; hence the place got its name. With the shortest distance between the craggy banks at 25 meters and a flow rate of 70,000 cubic meters per second, the rapids at Tiger Leaping Gorge are among the fastest on the planet.

Further north on the other side of the Baha Snow Mountain is another amazing spectacle of nature – the White Water Terrace. Here white sandstones form multiple levels of perfectly flat platforms with raised vertical edges. Crystal-clear water fills each level of the terrace, reflecting the entrancing blue sky.

These unique features are of a geological formation called travertine, which occurs at fault lines where mineral-rich water oozes out from geothermal springs. Under special underground conditions, the originally alkaline water is supersaturated with carbon dioxide. Upon emergence, carbon dioxide is released from the water, resulting in reduced acidity and decreased solubility of carbonate minerals. Over time, calcium carbonate precipitants from the water form flat sedimentary terraces. Standing next to the spectacular structures, one can’t help but be in tremendous awe of nature’s greatness.

Equally magnificent are the many rice terraces, which can be readily seen from the road. The local people have harvested from these extensive, perfectly engineered paddies for over a thousand years. During the sowing season, viewed from a high mount on a sunny day, each patch of rice terrace is like a piece of glittering mirror flawlessly fitted into a mosaic of nature’s painting.

Between the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Lijiang city is the renowned Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, to which many folk songs sing praises. Its snowcap is actually a glacier whose melting water feeds the fairytale city of 1.2 million inhabitants.

Lijiang has at least 800 years of history. In early Yuan Dynasty, it was developed into a flourishing meeting point for caravans that traveled between China and Tibet and India. The trading route that passes Lijiang, is called the Old Tea Horse Road. It originated from the Pu’er region of Yunnan, which is world-famous for its Pu’er tea.

For about five centuries during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, Lijiang was under the governance of the Mu family, a local commander of the Naxi ethnicity. The Mu Mansion located at the southwestern corner of the Old Town of Lijiang is a well-preserved traditional garden that combines the best architectural elements of Tang, Song, and Ming Dynasties with the Naxi tradition of intricate running waterways and exotic floras. The main buildings include the Meeting Hall, the Ten Thousand Scroll Hall, the Inner Meeting Hall, the Building of Light, and Building of Sound, San Qing Hall, and a worship hall.

The layout of Lijiang Old Town is distinct from other traditional Chinese-style cities in that it does not have a city wall. Behind this, there is an interesting story of the Mu family. The Chinese character of “Mu,” when placed inside a frame, gives rise to the character “predicament.” For this reason, the governors from the Mu family, decided not to build a city wall in order to have an auspicious geomancy.

The Old Town of Lijiang is also called “Dayan.” For centuries, it has been a regional political, cultural, and educational center. The continuing prosperity of the city can be seen from its well-maintained layout and immaculate architecture. Standing on a higher vantage point in the city, one gets a wonderful view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Another eye-pleasing feature is the neatly tiled roofs which decorate the entire urban area. The city is accessible only by foot. Meandering streets are cobbled with local bluestones and lined with traditional buildings and interesting craft shops. The center of the Old Town is called the Sifang Street.

It is an open square with four major avenues extending to the four directions. Typical houses have engraved doors and windows, as well as a garden with local vegetations. Among the landmark structures are the Dabao Palace, Dading Pavilion, Glazed Hall, Five Phoenix Chamber, and the House of Eternity.

The most unique features of the city are the waterways running by the side of every street, with intermittent swaying willows. These ancient aqueducts measure several meters wide and supply water to each household of the city. The water mainly comes from one source – the Black Dragon Pool of the Jade Spring Park.

The park was built in the Qing Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. A popular scenery which appears on many postcards of Lijiang is the view of the Black Dragon Pool reflecting the snowcap of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the Moonshine Building, and the Five-Arch Bridge.

The extensive network of canals makes it necessary to have a large number of bridges to connect the streets. The 350 bridges of Lijiang have various elegant designs and create a cityscape with an inspirational exquisiteness. The town is sometimes known as the “Suzhou in the Highland” and the “Oriental Venice.”

The water supply system of this historical city was engineered with a carefully thought-out plan that enables scientific utilization of water. To avoid cross-contamination, every public well of the city has three openings: one for consumption, one for cleaning fruits and vegetables, and one for washing clothes. Every night, a floodgate at a central high point of the town is opened to release water to flush all the streets, so that in the morning, citizens and tourists wake up and enjoy a clean and fresh environment during the day.

Water is also used to power watermills. Besides the large antique wooden waterwheel at the center of the city, some family-run small watermills are practically built and still used to grind grains. If the nature and architecture of Lijiang are a feast for the eyes, then the simple, happy, and contented way of life will leave one with a lasting memory. In 1997, the Old Town of Lijiang was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being an “exceptional ancient town set in a dramatic landscape which represents the harmonious fusion of different cultural traditions to produce an urban landscape of outstanding quality.”

Please join us tomorrow for part two of the two-part series on wondrous Lijiang, when we will meet the charming inhabitants of this idyllic “lost horizon” and hear their special messages to humanity.

Happy viewers, thank you for your gentle company with us on today’s A Journey through Aesthetic Realms. Up next on Supreme Master Television is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, after Noteworthy News. May you find heavenly qualities in all aspects of your life.