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Tea and Horse Caravan Road Travel Guide

Click to see the large map of the Tea and Horse Caravan Road

The Tea and Horse Caravan Road of Southwest China, aka the " Silk Road of Southwest China" – but called Chamagudao in Chinese (cha-ma-gu-dao = Tea-Horse-Ancient-Road) – is an old trade route that stretched east to west and south to north across southwest China, including present-day Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region), and down into Nepal and India (see the stylized map below). This set of ancient trade routes eventually came to be renowned for the two main commodities for which the routes were named: tea and horses, though there were other important commodities such as sugar and salt – but curiously, not silk – that were traded along these routes.

Note also that, unlike the western part of the Silk Road, where caravans of Bactrian camels transported silk and other exotic goods westward, the beast of burden for the trek over the mountains of southwestern China, which could be freezing cold and snowy in winter, was the pack horse.*(1, 2)  And of course, the horses that were brought back to China from Tibet could serve as pack horses on the trek back to the Chinese hinterland.

The absence of trade in silk notwithstanding, the comparison to the famous Silk Road is naturally quite valid here in the sense that the overland trade routes of Southwest China were a major factor in the economic as well as the cultural development of the region, in much the same way that the Silk Road was an engine for economic and cultural change in the lands it traversed (for example, Buddhism would not have spread to China as early as it did – and thus further to Korea (during the Goryeo (CE 918-1392) Dynasty period), and from Korea on to Japan, though Buddhism first got a serious foothold in Japan after the Chinese Buddhism tracts were translated into Japanese – had it not been for the Silk Road).

The main driver of the trade along the Tea and Horse Caravan Road was, on the one hand, China's desire to import horses from Tibet, and, on the other hand, Tibet's desire to import tea from China: Pu'er tea from the city of Pu'er in present-day Yunnan Province, situated about 100 kilometers north-northeast of Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve; and Yacha tea from the city of Ya'an, located about 1300 kilometers farther north and east in Sichuan Province, or situated about 100 kilometers southwest of the province's captial, Chengdu .

Roughly speaking, these trade routes describe a horizontally-oriented (lying sidewise) "Y", where the two forks of the sidewise "Y" point roughly eastward while the trunk of the sidewise "Y" points roughly westward (the city of Pu'er represents the terminus of the southern fork of the "Y" while the city of Ya'an represents the terminus of the northern fork of the "Y"), as the map at the up right corner. >>Read More

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Click on the cities names to see Tea and Horse Caravan Road attractions
Tea and Horse Caravan Road Map Pu'er Dali Kangding Xindu Bridge Ganzi chamdo Shigatse Yunnan Provice

Tea and Horse Caravan Road Maps

Click to see the large map of the Tea and horse Caravan Road Click to see the large map of the Tea and Horse Caravan Road Click to see the large map of the Tea and Horse Caravan Road Click to see the large map of the Tea and Caravan Road

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