Cradled in an isolated hillside at the foot of a sacred Tibetan mountain in Yunnan province, is the idyllic Sunyata Hotel Meili. Named after the Sanskrit word for “emptiness”, the hotel has taken on the challenge of connecting traditional Tibetan architecture and Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy.
Zhao Yang Architects were tasked with converting a two and a half storey hostel into a four-floor hotel, with a strict mandate to honour traditional local architecture and be mindful of the environment and local culture. Fusing ultra-modern with traditional materials and retaining original features like bamboo beams and uneven concrete walls, the building was also re-inforced to strengthen the structure. Expect authentic Tibetan-style fireplaces, Buddhist murals and reclaimed doors.
3,600 meters above sea level and surrounded by a centuries-old village which is home to 22 Shangri-La dwellings, the Meili Snow Mountains present a jagged silhouette of breathtaking proportions. All 19 rooms and suites feature an open-studio layout with those uninterrupted views that are an unyielding attraction to the hotel.
“The hotel’s spectacular library houses The Sonnets of Snow Mountains, a moving tribute to the spiritual sanctuary of Meili by Chinese avant-garde poet Hua Ma, alongside an impressive curation of limited-edition publications and rare vintage volumes.”
With the wabi-sabi concept in mind, guest rooms enjoy oversized, deep wooden window frames to allow sunlight to flourish whilst appreciating the climactic mountainous scenery, unleashing a sense of zen. The region is home to several rare species including the Yunnan snubnosed monkey, snow leopard, red panda and many unique plants.
Local artisans have crafted furniture in all rooms which also feature custom-made pieces from the Yiji Collection by Ke Xie. Sunyata also hosts a 70-square-meter standalone villa titled Noble House, which has an outstanding private terrace and bathtub overlooking the gardens and immense forest.
Although the restaurant is annexed and built from steel and glass, it offers an uncompromising panoramic view and Zhao Yang managed to achieve a feeling of intimacy, encouraged by the subtle lighting from carefully-placed candles, handwoven blankets and naturally dyed linens. Serving authentic seasonal Yunnan cuisine, the menu is changed regularly depending on the availability of regional produce.
Rooftop lounge Kawagebo overlooks the Wunongding Village and it is said that some residents are known to open their homes to hotel guests who are looking to understand more of their way of life and culture.
Sunyata Hotel Meili, Wunongding Village, Deqen County, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China
The nearest airport is Diqing Shangi-La Airport (DIG), which can be reached via the international airport of Chengdu (CTU).