According to the discovery of archaeology, the area of Shangri-la was firstly inhabited in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1050 - 771 BC). For hundreds of years, several nomadic Tibetan tribes settled in this area, living a pastoral life, wandering the plateau with vast yak herds.
During the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD), Shangri-La began to contact the Chinese heartland closely. In the late Tang and Song dynasties, as the caravans of silver, tea, and horses for wars traveled through Zhongdian on the Tea-Horse Road known as the Southern Silk Road which linked southwest China with India via Tibet, the relationship developed much deeply.
In the years following the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Zhongdian was left to its own devices until the Red Army marched through Tibet, liberating as it went.
Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. While much of the content was fictional, it is believed that the fiction was based on the very real and very mysterious area of Zhongdian of the 1930s. Then Zhongdian County officially renamed Shangri-La County in 2002. In Tibetan Shangri-La means the "sun and moon in heart", an ideal home only found in heaven.
Now Shangri-La is a fascinating place that captures the dreams of tourists and adventure lovers. With modern transportation, Shangri-La is easily reached by visitors. You will find a kind people, living a simple, but peaceful life. The pious and persistent religious belief prevails and dominates local life. The scenery and people are still touching hearts without the help of any novel.