The Tea Horse Road

https://tinyurl.com/hmx5vy3 (c) 2017
Memorial statues of Chamadao tea merchants in Ya’an Sichuan

Civilizations depend on roads to connect, and a ancient road through Southwestern China, Tibet, Northeastern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bengal, and Myanmar has been fusing cultures for centuries. The Tibetan Plateau is too harsh for most vegetables to grow, and Tibetan people’s consumption of vitamin relies greatly on tea, and tea also help them to digest the heavy meat that they eat daily, so you may find in Tibet that as long as there is a table, there is a table of Tibetans drinking tea.

Tea is originally from China’s southwestern area of Yunnan and Sichuan, and once it took its way west into the sight of people nomad ethnicity like the Tibetan and Tangut, it become a great complement to their diet and much like silk and china, it gradually become very demanded as commercial goods. Sichuan and Yunnan are mostly mountainous and stock breeding isn’t easy, especially large stocks like horses, so as the commerce  develops, Tibetan horses along with Sichuanese and Yunanese tea become predominant goods on the Tea Horse Road, or the Chamadao.

Until today, there are still remote Tibetan villages in U-Tsang and Kham that practice the production method of women doing all the farming, herding, while men form caravans to carry the goods over the deadly mountains to trade for tea, crops, and salt. Also, many towns along the ancient Chama road was established as post houses for the caravans, and just like the silk road, Chamadao is also a road where different cultures fuse, communicate, and blossom.

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