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Zurick Convo Takes Students To Shangri-La

A hush fell over the crowd of students in Phelps-Stokes as the lights were slowly dimmed down to darkness. Music began to play, and amazing pictures of mountains, lakes and people were projected onto the giant screen.

Dr. Zurick has completed 15 major expeditions to the Himalaya region.

Dr. David Zurick, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University, gave an illustrated lecture to students during convocation about his travels to the Himalaya region. Zurick has been a member of the audience at convocation for 20 years. Even so, he laughed, "It's a little bit difficult being up here."

The Himalaya mountain range runs for about 2,400 km, from Nanga Parbat in Pakistan to Namche Barwa in Tibet. This mountain range holds some of the highest peaks in the world, some of which are visible from space. Mount Everest is located in the Himalaya range.

In his talk, Zurick discussed the importance of the mountain range to local religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a place of pilgrimage and worship, and holds many sacred locations known only to special people within the religion. These spots were also thought to be thresholds into supernatural worlds.

Zurick also focused on the land known as Shangri-La. Shangri-La is a fictional place in the novel “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton. In Hilton's book, "Shangri-La" is a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Himalaya. The name "Shangri - La" now evokes images of an earthly paradise, a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. The story of Shangri-La is based on the concept of Shambhala, a mystical city in Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Zurick also touched on alpining, and how "conquering" the Himalayas, particularly Mt. Everest, has become commercialized. It has also become a more dangerous feat, as climbers with little experience are led up the summit by hired guides who may not always make the best judgments. During the course of his work in the Himalayas, Zurick has hiked and climbed more than 3,000 miles through the mountains. Still, he insists, "I am not an alpinist. I climbed some high peaks because of their point of view, or simply because they were in the way."

Dr. Zurick has been exploring and documenting various places and people for the past 30 years now, and has many pictures and stories to tell to prove it. He has written four books, which include “Errant Journeys, Himalaya: Life on the Edge of the World,” and his most recent book, “Illustrated Atlas of the Himalaya.”

Since 1987, Zurick has been on the faculty at Eastern Kentucky University and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky since 2004. He also has taught at the University of Hawaii. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in Geography from Michigan State University and a PhD. in Geography from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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