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Origin of Ancient Tea-Horse Road

As its name suggests, the Chamagudao, literally translated as “Ancient Tea-Horse Road” was a central trade route for exchanging Tibetan horses and Chinese tea. The corridor came to play a crucial role in communication and exchange between the cultures of present-day Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet.

For thousands of years, travelers have been lured across its snow-capped mountains, precipitous canyons and vibrant streaming rivers to discover some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of China.

The Tea-Horse Road between the hinterland and Tibet evolved from the Tang-Tubo Silk Road. Actually, the trade ties between the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the hinterland began much earlier than the Tang Dynasty. During the Sui Dynasty, the emperor issued an edict for expanded trade ties with various states in the Western Regions (Nowadays Xinjiang and Mid-Aisa).

When Princess Wencheng married into Tibet, she brought along with her a large batch of materials and books, including a statue of Sakyamuni equal to the height of the Buddha when he was 12 years old, 360 volumes of sutras, 20,000 pieces of silk fabrics, 300 volumes of books on divination, 60 kinds of books on technology, medicine that could be used to treat 404 kinds of diseases and tea.

Tea had already been introduced into Tubo, but the trade priority remained silks to satisfy aristocrats. What Tubo exported to the Tang Dynasty were mainly local products or gold and silk vessels transported from Central Asia.

There is a legend in Tibetan historical records about the introduction of tea to Tubo: King Dorsum Monbuchi (676-704) fell seriously ill. One day, a beautiful bird came to him with a twig in its mouth. The king felt curious about this, and tasted the leaves, which he found very delicately fragrant. After being boiled with water, it became a superior drink. He ordered his liegemen to look for more samples of this twig.

At last, they found it in the area inhabited by the Han people. They brought back the leaves to Tubo and the king soon recovered. Then, he ordered his liegemen to look for vessels carrying this drink, and they also found porcelain bowls in the tea growing area ruled by the Tang Dynasty. According to this view, tea and tea sets all came from the hinterland and were introduced into Tubo in the period about 676-704.

Tea soon became a favorite of the Tubo people. The Tea Horse Road had already been opened during the Tang Dynasty, and tea finally became to rival silk as a trading commodity, with a flow of horses primarily going in the reverse direction. It can be concluded that tea-horse trade and the Tea Horse Road originated from the Tang-Tubo silk trade. Tea became popular among the common people as well as aristocrats; monks who could not eat while meditating also drank it. Finally, it replaced silk in importance.


Ancient ancient Origin Road road


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