Most people in the West had probably never heard of Dukezong until a few days ago, when about two thirds of the old town was destroyed by fire. The remote and ancient Tibetan town of Dukezong, which means "the town of moon" in Tibetan, has a history dating back around 1,300 years and was once an important town on the South Silk Road (also known as the Ancient Road of Tea and Horse)
Dukezong lies in northwestern Yunnan Province, China, in what was Zhongdian county until 2001, when the Chinese renamed it Shangri-La in an attempt to increase tourism in the region. It was best known for its old wooden Tibetan houses, almost 300 of which were razed to the ground during the worst blaze in the history of the town. The fire started in the early hours of the morning and, before the blaze had been extinguished, the Chinese authorities claimed the cause to be accidental and that there were no casualties
By a strange coincidence, and apparently nothing whatsoever to do with the recent Chinese crackdown on Tibetans, several other significant Tibetan enclaves have recently been ravaged by fire, including the old Tibetan town of Lijiang in Yunnan Province. And just a couple of days before the Dukezong fire, the Buddhist institute of Serthar in the Larung valley in eastern Tibet, one of the largest centers of Buddhist study in the world was also badly damaged in a nocturnal fire. I'd also question why the Chinese army (the original caption refers to them as "brave rescuers") in the image above seem to be standing around watching events, rather than helping tackle the blaze (one chap even appears to be taking a photograph). The Chinese caption actually says "rescuers assist with the fire" I leave you to draw your own conclusions, but it does seem rather suspicious...
Dukezong was a truly beautiful place, with lots of character - here are some of the photos I took when we visited it about 18 months ago
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