1. An idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place. (Merriam Webster) 2. A particularly bad Olivia Newton-John romantic musical fantasy film (1980). 3. An ancient Chinese capital during the Yuan dynasty, ruled by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis). Visited by Marco Polo in 1275; world heritage site, only ruins exist today. Also known as Shangdu. 4. The inspiration for Samuel Coleridge's famous poem Kubla Khan. 5. A metaphor for a safe place for creative wanderlust and inspiration. (definition mine)
I admit it, I dug the Olivia Newton-John film. Because, Magic.
Cut me some slack, though-I was nine. And really into roller skating, music, and romance, which is essentially the entire plot of the movie.
But Xanadu has a long history of being a retreat from reality. In the West, it became best known as a subject--and muse--for Samuel Coleridge Taylor's poem Kubla Khan:
"...The poem was composed one night after he [Coleridge] experienced an opium-influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan. Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream...."
-Kubla Khan Wikipedia
What is Xanadu for writers? A "stately pleasure dome?" "Fertile grounds?" "Gardens bright with sinuous rills (streams)?" "Forests ancient as the hills, enfolding sunny spots of green?"
All of the above.
A place to let our imagination roam freely, meander, even, with no judgment, no restraint. A museum. The wilderness. A place of fantasy. A place that exists nowhere but in our minds. A place of refuge.
Where is your Xanadu?
"There is at this place [Xanadu] a very fine marble palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment."