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House of clouds

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya | Updated: 2017-07-14 08:06
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A view of the main Buddhist temple in an old part of the town. A fire in 2014 destroyed a large number of hotels and houses here. The rebuilding is ongoing. [Photo by Shi Wenzhi/China Daily]

Shangri La was a different place back then, he says.

The area's main business used to be wood export but a flood in the Yangtze River halted that trade. Subsequently, tourism picked up, and is now estimated to fetch 1 billion yuan ($147 million) annually.

Dakpa Kelden runs a boutique hotel and a thangka art school near the town's public square that offers a stunning view of a Buddhist temple, especially at night, when its top facade is lit.

Chinese youngsters from elsewhere regularly enroll into residency programs in the centuries-old Buddhist art form, which uses colors made by grinding materials, such as rocks and pearl.

"Our purpose (at the training center) is to give them the required skills and knowledge of the history of thangka painting," he says.

Karma Tachen, 31, vice-chairman of Shangrila Highland Craft Brewery, studied the art form in college in neighboring Sichuan province, his hometown. Lately, he has been living the "life of Zen" in Shangri La after spending some time in Italy, where he had gone to learn design.

The company-on the town's outskirts where a new development area is coming up-was established by Songtsen Gyalzur, a Swiss real estate developer of Tibetan origin, in 2009.

With a growing appetite for craft beer in the country and the availability of natural resources like freshwater and highland barley in Shangri La, they are aiming to up production from 4,000 tons a year to 24,000 tons in the future.

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