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Three Programs Take a Mystical Journey through Hidden Regions of the Himalayas, Wednesday, November 18, 2009 On PBS

November 18, 2009
November 17, 2009

Two National Geographic Specials, "Secrets of
Shangri-la" and Lost Cave Temples of the
Himalayas, Climb Inside Untouched Caves; Mustang
-- Journey of Transformation relates the story of
a Tibetan Culture saved from Extinction

Inside caves, a team of climbers and scholars
discovered a rare library of ancient Tibetan texts.

High in the Himalaya, in the most remote kingdom
in the world, explorers have found thousands of
mysterious caves. Their dark portals beckon with
the promise of a glimpse into a lost world. Now,
in two new riveting National Geographic
Television specials, produced exclusively for PBS
and airing Wednesday, November 18, 2009, on PBS,
a team of climbers and scholars sets out to reach
them and give viewers a glimpse into the
forbidden kingdom of Mustang and the unseen
treasures these lost caves contain. SECRETS OF
SHANGRI-LA airs 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET, followed by
p.m. ET. A third program, MUSTANG - JOURNEY OF
TRANSFORMATION, airing 10:00-10:30 p.m. ET, tells
the compelling story of efforts to rescue ancient
Tibetan monasteries on the brink of extinction. Richard Gere narrates.

The kingdom of Mustang lies on a windswept
plateau between Nepal and Tibet. Isolated both by
geography and politics, Mustang is culturally and
ethnically Tibetan, but politically part of
Nepal. The area was completely off limits to westerners for 50 years.

In an attempt to unravel a mystery, seven-time
Everest summiter Pete Athans and a team of
internationally renowned climbers and explorers
journeyed to Mustang, joining forces with
archaeologists, anthropologists and art
historians. SECRETS OF SHANGRI-LA follows their
excursion to enter long-hidden caves and rescue
rare Tibetan texts from crumbling landscape
before looters get to them. The texts are adorned
with beautiful "illuminations," small paintings
worth tens of thousands of dollars on the international art market.

As they prepare to climb into the caves, the Lo
Manthang Youth Club, a political group from a
nearby village, tries to stop them. What ensues
is an intriguing set of events involving the King
of Mustang, the highest lama of the land and even
the divinities that are believed to inhabit the area.

"These caves are probably the most reliable
indicator of the continuous history of this
area," said Oxford University anthropologist
Charles Ramble, who has studied this culture for
28 years and has lived among the Mustang people.
"The kinds of things we find in there, from the
archaeological record to perhaps the richest
literary repository we've found, means that these
really are the places on which we need to focus
if we want to establish as full as possible a
picture of the history and culture of the Himalaya."

In April 2007, a team of climbers and scientists
had climbed inside these long-hidden chambers for
the first time in modern history. In LOST CAVE
TEMPLES OF THE HIMALAYA, viewers follow the
story, told by filmmaker Liesl Clark, as Athans,
Clark's husband, and big-wall climber Renan
Ozturk take on the dangerous job of climbing into
the crumbling caves. Their goals are to get
inside the inaccessible cave cities, unoccupied
for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, to
document what's inside and to search for nine
legendary cave temples called "kabum." What they
find goes far beyond their expectations, rocking
the Himalayan world and rewriting the history of
this remote and mystical region. The treasures
include a 55-panel painted mural and piles of old
Tibetan manuscript folios, some printed in silver
and gold. Each vertical move into a cave opening is a step into the unknown.

Richard Gere, presents the remarkable story of a
Tibetan culture pulled back from the brink of
extinction through the restoration of its most sacred sites.

At a time when Tibetan culture in Tibet is in
danger of disappearing under Chinese occupation,
Mustang remains uniquely preserved. In 1991, when
Nepal opened Mustang's border to the outside
world, the first visitors were shocked by what
they found - the old monasteries were on the
verge of collapse and the Buddhist wall paintings
were disintegrating. The impoverished people
needed health care, education and jobs, yet the
raja of Mustang's first plea to outsiders who
offered help was to save the monasteries. He
understood ... saving the art would save the
people, for cultural identity is paramount.
hope and rebirth told by those who helped save
the forbidden kingdom. The film features an interview with the Dalai Lama.
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