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In Search Of Myths And Heroes: Shangri-La

Airs Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Michael Wood at the Taj Mahal, as his trek in search of Shangri-La begins.

Living Legends Quiz

The myths and mythical themes of "In Search Of Myths And Heroes" are alive and well today in literature and film. Test your mythological savvy with this quiz.

Pilgrims at the River Ganges. The roots of the Shangri-La myth are in India, and its devout pilgrims at the River Ganges in Hardwar.
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Above: Pilgrims at the River Ganges. The roots of the Shangri-La myth are in India, and its devout pilgrims at the River Ganges in Hardwar.

Wood traces the Shangri-La story to the ruins of Tsaperang, in Tibet, the last capital of the lost kingdom of Guge.
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Above: Wood traces the Shangri-La story to the ruins of Tsaperang, in Tibet, the last capital of the lost kingdom of Guge.

Mt. Kailash, perhaps the holiest site in Tibet.
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Above: Mt. Kailash, perhaps the holiest site in Tibet.

In this series, Michael Wood goes in search of four of the world's most famous myths: The Queen of Sheba, the earthly paradise of Shangri-La, King Arthur and Jason and the Argonauts. These gripping adventures take the viewer to some of the most extraordinary places on earth, exploring stories that have captivated the world for thousands of years.

The third of Michael Wood's historical journeys takes viewers on a thrilling trek through India, Nepal and Tibet in search of Shangri-La. The tale of the magical valley hidden behind the Himalayas was popularized in the 1930s movie "Lost Horizon," but the myth of a secret earthly paradise is much older.

The legend of this lost valley is one of the most ancient Tibetan myths, and one of the most striking myths of a sacred landscape, a landscape that inspires stories itself.

To find the truth behind the legend, Wood travels on foot through some of the world's most sacred mountains before finally reaching the fantastic ruins of a lost city, which he believes is the real inspiration behind the myth.

The present Dalai Lama says this about Shambala:

Nowadays, no one knows where Shambala is. Although it is said to exist, people cannot see it, or communicate with it in an ordinary way. Some people say it is located in another world, others that it is an ideal land, a place of the imagination. Some say it was a real place, which cannot now be found. Some believe there are openings into that world which may be accessed from this. Whatever the truth of that, the search for Shambala traditionally begins as an outer journey that becomes a journey of inner exploration and discovery.

Today, Shangri-La is seen both as a place, and as an era of enlightened consciousness. The Tibetans say that the need to find paradise elsewhere is it what keeps us from having it. Wherever Shangri-La is, the search for it continues.

Video

Preview: In Search Of Myths And Heroes: Shangri-La

Above: Michael Wood explores four of the most famous myths in the world: Shangri-La, the Golden Fleece, the Queen of Sheba, and the Holy Grail in the television series "In Search Of Myths And Heroes." His journeys take him to some of the most remote and exciting places on earth - from the fantastic landscapes of Western Tibet, to the mountains of Georgia and the Caucasus; and from the plains of Southern Iraq, to the coasts of Ethiopia, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. The stories he reveals also take in Greece and Turkey, India and Nepal, Egypt and Israel, and the world of Celtic Britain and the West of Ireland. In his investigations Michael Wood delves into the past to separate fact from fiction, and find the historical truth.

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