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At the roof of the world, Tibet, with depths of sky framing rugged, remote mountains, with its ornate monasteries and Buddhist rituals, has held a kind of mythic place in the Western imagination as far back as Marco Polo.

As a glamourised, Hollywood Shangri-La, fought for by the likes of Sharon Stone and Richard Gere, it may be a projection of our yearning for simplicity, purity, and spiritual fulfillment. Tibet in real life, meantime, has TVs, SUVs, and a history of a powerful feudal theocracy and religious factionalism.

It’s a country and culture living on borrowed time – both literally and figuratively: Tibet runs on the same clock as Beijing, its roughshod ruler 2000 miles away.

The American special feeling for the old Tibet wasn’t special enough to protect it in our rush to do business with China: so what is Shangri-la’s future after the Hollywood romance and the US-China trade agreement.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Orville Schell