THE TEA HORSE ROAD -

 

The Ancient Tea/Horse Road, or chama gudao Simplified Chinese: 马古道; traditional Chinese: 茶馬古道 was a commercial network of caravan paths winding through the mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces, in Southwest China, mainly for tea-horse trading between the south and western lands of China and Tibet, then later reaching India south of the Himalayas. In addition to tea, the caravans carried salt, and sugar, into Tibet and horses, cows, furs, musk and other local products that were exclusive to Tibet came out. It was referred to as the Southern Silk Road. The trails ran across an area of the most complicated geological conditions and most diversified organisms in Asia. Besides its cultural and historic value, the road was also highly appreciated by adventurers and scientists alike.

Map illustrating the Tea and Horse Road routes

 

This route appears to have been in use long before it became the avenue for the tea and horse trade during the Tang, Song and later Dynasties, for it was a very important corridor connecting the ancient cultures of the areas of present Tibet, Yunnan and Sichuan. In such places as Ganzi and Aba Distrcts of Sichuan and the Hengduan Mountains of Northwest Yunnan archaeologists have discovered many cist tombs which date from the Shang (1,600-1,100 B.C.E.) and the Zhou (1,100-256 B.C.E.) Dynasties. These cist tombs are scattered broadly in the canyons and valleys of the upper reaches of the Min River as well as the Yalong and Jinsha Rivers. Most of these tombs are located in western Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, although a few have also been found in Tibet. Although there are slight differences between the cist tombs of the various sites, their main features and cultural characteristics are generally similar. The archeologists have established that the cist tombs discovered in Tibet are closely related with those of Sichuan and Yunnan in terms of their form and the grave goods. Notably those cist tombs found in Changdu and Linzhi, Tibet, definitely belong to the same cultural system as those in western Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. The cist tombs in Tibet are for the most part found close to the roads which led directly from Sichuan and Yunnan. Thus it is clear that about 4,000-5,000 years ago, well before the Tea and Horse Road was officially opened, migration and communication among the various ethnic groups operated along this route.

 

The ancient Tea/Horse Road was the longest ancient trade road in the world, 10,000 kilometers in length across west China, into Tibet and later, India. Few people would finish the whole journey in ancient times. From Ya’an, in the tea-growing region of Sichuan Province, to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet at 4,000 meters. It was one of the highest, harshest trails in Asia, as it climbed up out of China's verdant valleys, traversed the wind-stripped, snow-scoured Tibetan Plateau, forded the freezing Jinsha (Upper Yangtze), Mekong, and Nu (Salween) Rivers, sliced into the mysterious Nyainqentanglha Mountains, ascended four deadly 17,000-foot passes, then finally dropped into the holy Tibetan city and beyond.

 

 


Iron chain bridge over the Nu (Salween)

 

 

Snowstorms often buried the western part of the trail, and torrential rains ravaged the eastern portion. Bandits were a constant threat. Yet the trail was heavily used for centuries, even though the cultures at either end at times despised each other (and still do). The desire to trade was why the trail existed, not the romantic swapping of ideas, culture and creativity associated with the legendary Silk Road to the north. China had something Tibet wanted: tea. Tibet had something China desperately needed: horses. Every station along the road could be an end or the start of one business.

 

The transportation situation was poor in the south-western area due to the tall and precipitous mountains, zigzagging roads and rapid rivers. Therefore, carriage or waterway transportation was nearly impossible. Under such circumstances, Mabang was the only means of transportation and made the ancient Tea/Horse Road special; created by humans with their feet and horses with their hooves.

 

The roads created by Mabang, connecting with life passages from one valley to another, from one village to another, became the ties of the south-western area. Those stations that Mabang once stayed at to do business later became towns or cities. Today's Lijiang, Dali and Shaxi are well-preserved ancient towns, known on the southern portion of the Tea Horse Road.

 

Sichuan is the original producing area of Chinese Ya’an, Ya’cha Tea production. As early as 2,000 years ago, tea, as a commodity, was traded in the Western Han Dynasty. The businessmen often exchanged the local products, such as tea for yaks, with the people who lived beyond the Dadu River (a Tibetan area in Sichuan). The trade road at this time was called “Yaks Road,” the initial ancient Tea/Horse Road. Some 2,350 kilometers long, with fifty-six traveling stages, fifty-one river crossings, fifteen rope bridges and ten iron bridges and traverses seventy-eight mountains over 3,000 meters high.

 

However, the habit of having tea had not yet developed widely in China, used mainly as a valuable medical material. Therefore, it was not commonly used by Tibetans. Consequently, tea to Tibetan areas sold in limited quantities during this period. Tea, it was later learned promotes digestion and eliminates grease from eating too much meat. Pu'er Tea from was most favored by the Tibetan people, as the butter-like taste is highly esteemed both in flavor and color. It was named after its producing area of Pu'er County in (present day Xishuangbanna and Sima prefectures of Yunnan Province), which is one of the cradles of China's "tea culture". During the Tang Dynasty, Pu'er Tea was grown in areas flanking the Langcang Jiang/River. It was described as having a bitter taste at first, then sweet. China’s Yunnan Province has been a link between tea growers and drinkers for more than 1,200 years.

 


In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Tobo regime rose in the Qianghai-Tibet Plateau, absorbing a great deal of the advanced culture around it. According to the Tibetan book “Historic Collection of the Han and Tibet” (Han Zang shi ji) “In the reign of the Tibetan King Chidusongzan [Khri ‘Dus sron] (676-704 C.E.), the Tibetan aristocracy started to drink tea and use the tea-bowl, and tea was classified into different categories.” Moreover, the book, Ganlu zhi hai (The Sea of Amrita,), mentions ranking tea by quality (Dacangzongba: 104-106). Li Zhao’s Guo shi bu (Supplement to the National History), written under the Tang Dynasty, relates that emperor Dezong sent his supervisory official (jiangchayushi) Chang Lu to visit Tibet, where the Tibetan King received him in a tent. Chang Lu offered boiled tea to the King, who asked what it was. Chang answered that this was called cha (tea) and was good for relieving thirst and nervousness. The King then responded that Tibet already had cha and instructed his servants show the tea to Chang Lu (Li Zhao: Vol. 2). This record corroborates that of the Han Zang shi ji.

 

The Tibetan people had been in close communication with the Tang and the various ethnic groups of southwest China for a long time; so it is very likely that the tea of Sichuan and Yunnan had already reached Tibet. The Tubo (Tibetan) military power had conquered the ethnic tribes scattered in the present areas of Lijiang and Dali, Yunnan as early as the seventh century, and had established a military administration in northwest Yunnan. The military route used by the Tibetans to reach Yunnan was closely related to the contemporary Tea/Horse route. Yunnan is the one of the places where tea plants are native. Since 1949 scientists have found many wild and cultivated tea trees that are more than a thousand years old in the Nannuo Mountains and Bada Mountains of Menghai County as well as Yiwu Mountains and Xiangming Mountains of Mengla County, Xishuangbanna. The local people call these ancient tea trees the “Tea Tree Kings.” In the Man shu (the book about the native tribes of southwest China, written by Fan Chuo during the Tang), there is a description of the tea trees grown in southern Yunnan. It also states that the local tribal people of Nanzhao Kingdom (7th-9th centuries C.E.) had the custom of drinking the local tea (Fan Chuo 1961-1992). The Tibetan military government had a very close relationship with the Nanzhao Kingdom, and it is possible that Yunnan tea was introduced into Tibet during that time.

 

Legend has it after Princess Wencheng married Songtsan Gampo (赞干布/the 33rd Tibetan emperor) in C.E. 641 and later, when Princess Jincheng married Chidaizhudan Mes-ag-tshoms ( 带珠丹/ the 36th Tibetan emperor, having tea habitually was introduced to the Tobo area (now Tibet), and gradually became popular with the upper class and monks.

 

However, at the beginning, tea was only served as a precious medical health product, not as a usual drink, used by the royal family. It was a hot beverage in a cold climate where the only other options were snowmelt, yak or goat milk, barley milk, or chang (barley beer). A cup of yak butter tea—with its distinctive salty, slightly oily, sharp taste—provided a mini-meal for herders warming themselves over yak dung fires in a windswept hinterland.

 

According to history, the habit of having tea developed in the Kaiyuan period of Tang Xuanzong's reign of the Tang Dynasty. As the contact between the Tobo regime and Tang increased, especially as many Zen monks from the inland areas went to Tobo to preach, having tea was introduced to the Tibetans. In the late Tang Dynasty, relations between the Tobo regime and Tang became stable, friendly and peaceful. Due of the destruction of agriculture which resulted from the An Lushan Rebellion, the Tang government needed horses and cows for a long period of time from Tibet to carry textiles and tea. This activated the official and folk trade between the two parts, and thus a large amount of cheap tea flowed into Tibet, which made the tea available for common Tibetans. Having tea as a custom from then on was shared by the people across the country gradually formed in the Tibetan areas.

 

Tea Carriers

 

During the Five Dynasties period and the Song Dynasty (960-1279), wars broke out frequently, needing to buy sturdy steeds from Tibet to take into battle against fierce nomadic tribes of Liao, Jin and Xixia from the north, antecedents of Genghis Khan's hordes. The use of copper coins for trade was banned, as they were being smelted into weapons of war. So, barter of tea and other goods was the means of exchange for horses between China and Tibet on the Tea/Horse Road. Moreover, the government wanted to strengthen the political relations with tribes in the Tibetan area through the Tea/Horse Road trade that originated from Chamahushi (马互市 Tea Horse Market). Some places in Sichuan, such as Mingshan, had a specialized agency of government named "Chamasi" (马司) to manage and supervise the tea-horse trade. According to one study, more than 20,000 warhorses per year were exchanged for tea during the Northern Song Dynasty. Of the total annual output of tea in Sichuan, 30,000,000 Jin or 15,000,000 kilograms, at least half was sold to Tibet (Jia Daquan 1993: By the 11th century, brick tea trade had boosted the economy and enriched the culture of the western area to become the coin of the realm. It promoted the development of the Tea/Horse Road and became an important policy administrated by the government.

 

For 60 kilos of brick tea, the Chinese would get a single horse. That was the rate set by the Sichuan Tea and Horse Agency, established in 1074. Porters carried tea from factories and plantations around Yaan up to Kangding, elevation 5,250 meters. There tea was then sewn into waterproof yak-skin cases and loaded onto mule and yak trains for a three-month journey to Lhasa. This policy guaranteed the sufficient supply of tea to Tibet, prompting the development of the habit of having tea among Tibetans, and thus the ancient Tea/Horse Road was greatly extended. By the 13th century China was trading millions of pounds of tea for some 25,000 horses a year. But even all the king's horses couldn't save the Song Dynasty, which fell to Genghis's grandson, Kublai Khan, in 1279.

 

In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Tobo was officially controlled by the central government and established the Xifanchatijusi, meaning the bureau in charge of tea trade to Tibet. At first, tea was sold through the government bureau, but later it gradually was handled by individual traders. The Yuan government set up many stations in the Tibetan area, extending the Sichuan-Tibet Tea/Horse Road considerably.

 

During the Ming Dynasty (1369-1644), was most prosperous period for the tea and horse trade between Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet. The Ming court established the office of Chakesi [Ch’a-k’o ssu], the bureau in charge of tea and horse trade, with a series of laws and regulations about tea used in Tibet were made to keep the tea production, selling, trafficking, price and quality under their supervision and control, limiting the sales quantities and inhibiting speculation in the Tibet. The quality of the horses offered to the court by the Tibetans as “tribute” determined the quality of the tea. Given the importance of tea in the daily life of the Tibetans, the Ming court was able to use the tea trade as a means of maintaining some political control over the Tibetan leaders and Lamas.

 

In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Sichuan played a more important role in ruling Tibet. The officials and soldiers were mostly detached by the Sichuan government who supported their foodstuffs and pay. The closer relations promoted the 'tea-for-horse' trade between Sichuan and Tibet. Moreover, during this period, the trade was not only just a 'tea-for-horse' trade, but a comprehensive Han-Tibetan trade in which tea predominated and the local products and various goods were included.

 

In 1661, the fifth Dalai Lama asked the Qing court to set up a large market for the tea and horse trade in Beisheng (present Yong-sheng, Yunnan), and his request was approved by the central court. From that time there was a rapid increase in the amount of Yunnan tea transported to Tibet along the Tea/Horse Road. In just one year, 1661, 30,000 dan or 1,500,000 kg of Yunnan tea was sent to Tibet. Tea also served as an important gift from the Qing court to the Tibetan elite: for example, the court allocated 5,000 jin (2,500 kg) to the Dalai Lama and 2,500 jin to the Panchan Lama each year.

 

In 1696, the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Kangxi, the central government set up the Chaguan (Tea Pass) and approved of the ‘tea-for-horse' trade in Kangding (康定), which made it become a major commercial center between the inland areas and Tibet. Through Kangding was the place where Mabang (caravan’ers) from the west needed to change their transportation tools or just traded with local people. The domestic commodities, such as silk and tea, were sold to the West and, in turn, the goods from Southern Asia, Europe and America flowed to the inland areas of China. Although the court stopped buying horses from the Tibetan area in 1735, it eased the restrictions on the tea trade, and huge amounts of tea were exported there.

 

When China's need for horses began to wane in the 18th century, tea was traded for other goods: hides from the high plains, wool, gold, and silver, and, most important, traditional Chinese medicinals that thrived only in Tibet.

 

Just as China's imperial government used to regulate the tea trade in Sichuan, so monasteries influenced the trade in theocratic Tibet. The Tea/Horse Road, known to Tibetans as the Gyalam, connected the important monasteries. Over the centuries, power struggles in Tibet and China changed the Gyalam's route. There were three main trunk lines: one from the south in Yunnan, home of Puer Tea; one from the north; and one from the east cutting through the middle of Tibet. Since it was the shortest, this center route handled most of the tea.

 

Tea porters, both men and women, regularly carried loads weighing 75 to 100 kilos; the strongest men could carry 150; which was often more than their own body weight. The more you carried, the more you were paid: Every “jin” of tea was worth an equal “jin” of rice when you returned home. Wearing rags and straw sandals, porters used crude iron crampons for the snowy passes. Their only food was a satchel of corn bread and an occasional bowl of bean curd.

 


While hauling the heavy loads they chanted: “Seven steps up, you have to rest. Eight steps down, you have to rest. Eleven steps flat, you have to rest. You are stupid, if you don't rest.”

 

The tea that traveled to Tibet along the Tea Horse Road was the crudest form of the beverage. Tea is made from Camellia sinensis, a subtropical evergreen shrub. But while green tea is made from unoxidized buds and leaves, brick tea bound for Tibet, to this day, is made from the plant's large tough leaves, twigs, and stems. It is the most bitter and least smooth of all teas. After several cycles of steaming and drying, the tea is mixed with gluey rice water, pressed into molds, and dried. Bricks of black tea weigh from one to three kilos and are still sold throughout modern Tibet.

 

During the Republic Period (1911-1949), though the Chinese government did not play an important role in the tea trade, it continued to prosper in the hands of private traders who still traveled along the ancient Tea/Horse Road.

 

 


Trail Above River

 

During the World War II, when Myanmar fell into the hands of the Japanese, the Yunnan-Myanmar Highway, then China's only international thoroughfare was cut off. The Ancient Tea Horse Road, extending from Kunming and Lijiang in Yunnan, to Kangding and Xichang in Sichuan, and then to Tibet and even further into India, was revived and became the major trade route.

 

According to one source, more than 25,000 horses and mules were used and more than 1,200 trading firms were to be found along the road. The Russian-born Peter Goullart, a descendant of merchants who had been involved in the inner Asian trade with China, arrived in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, in 1939. He spent two years there and then moved to Lijiang (Likiang), one of the important stopping points on the Tea and Horse Caravan Road. In his evocative book about his Lijiang years, Forgotten Kingdom, he provides abundant detail about the wartime trade with Tibet over this historic road:

 

Everything was indented [sic], contracted or bought outright that could be conveniently carried by yak or mule. Sewing machines, textiles, cases of the best cigarettes, both British and American, whiskies and gins of famous brands, dyes and chemicals, kerosene oil in tins, toilet and canned goods and a thousand and one varieties of small articles started flowing in an unending stream by trail and truck to Kaimpong, to be hastily repacked and dispatched by caravan to Lhasa. There the flood of merchandise was crammed into the halls and courtyards of the palaces and Lamaseries and turned over to an army of sorters and professional packers. The least fragile goods were set aside for the northern route to Tachienlu [Dhartsedo/Kang-ding], to be transported by yaks; other articles were packed for delivery at Likiang, especially the liquors and cigarettes which were worth their weight in gold in Kunming, crowded with thirsty American and British troops...

 

It was estimated that some 8,000 mules and horses, and probably 20,000 yaks, were used during Operation Caravan, when all other routes into China had been blocked during the war. Almost every week long caravans arrived in Likiang. So good and profitable was the business that even the rainy seasons failed to stop some adventurous merchants. This was a considerable risk and, in their avarice, they took it. The rainy season is much dreaded in Tibet and on the border, and all caravan and pilgrim traffic usually stops for the duration. The trails become muddy and swampy, rivers and streams swell to incredible proportions, mountains are wrapped in mists and avalanches and landslides become the rule rather than the exception. Many a traveller has been buried forever under tons of rocks or swept to his death by a raging torrent [Goullart 1955: 87-88].

 

 

 

With the defeat of Japan, the bottom instantly dropped out of the Tibet trade, and the merchants who had yet undelivered stocks were devastated. The overland route never recovered.

 

After 1957, materials and commodities have been transported to Tibet by trucks. The Chinese government built the Yunnan-Tibet and Zhong-Xiang motor ways. Near Lhasa it parallels the Qinghai-Tibet railway, highest in the world. These highways are the major arteries of commerce, clogged with trucks carrying every imaginable modern commodity from tea to school tablets, solar panels to plastic plates, computers to cell phones. Almost all of it goes one way—west to Tibet, to meet the needs of a ballooning Chinese population. The western half of the middle route has never been paved. This is the segment that winds through Tibet's remote Nyainqentanglha Mountains, an area so rugged and inhospitable it was simply abandoned decades ago and the entire area closed to travelers until recently.

 

These expressways ended the out-of-date way of carrying cargos by man and horses on the Ancient Tea/Horse Road. While modernization undermined this historic route’s commercial significance, the Tea/Horse Caravan Road is now attracting attention due to the growth of tourism in southwest China. One reason is the ethnic and cultural diversity of the region. There is a local saying, “The languages beyond five square li [2.5 kilometers] are different from each other, and the customs beyond ten square li are different from one other.” There are more than twenty different ethnic groups to be found along the route. Some famous old towns and villages which once were key stations and markets of the Tea and Horse Caravan Road have been listed among the most important international sites for historic preservation. For example, in Lijiang, where the Naxi people form the majority of inhabitants, was designated as a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1997. In 2002, Sidengjie Village and Shaxi Township in Yunnan, was listed as a “protected world architectural heritage site” by the World Architecture Foundation.

 

 

Moreover, the Tea/Horse Caravan Road continues to be a sacred road for many people. The different religions along the road include, for example, the White, Yellow and Red Hat sects of Tibetan Buddhism; the Bon religion of pre-Buddhism in Tibet; the Dongba religion of the Naxi people which combines Bon, Buddhism and its own Animism; Han Buddhism and Taoism, as well as the Hinayana belief of the Dai people, and the Benzhu (local gods and goddess) worship of the Bai people. Along the caravan road, there are many sacred mountains belonging to the different ethnic groups. For example, Kawagebo Snow Mountain [Meiliexuashan] (6,740 m), near Yubeng in northern Yunnan, is one of the most famous sacred mountains of the Tibetan people. Every year many pilgrims from Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet, Qinghai, and Gansu come there to worship and circumambulate the mountain with their tents, sheep and horses to ask for blessings from the Mountain God. Pilgrims still travel annually to Lhasa to pay their respect to the deities of Buddhism, often still “measuring the road” by prostrating their bodies along its length. The road these pilgrims follow is the Tea/Horse Caravan Road. In the past, young monks often shared the road with the caravans when traveling to Lhasa to carry on their studies and to advance their careers.

 

Goullart’s conclusion about the significance of the road (from his post-war perspective) is worth quoting, since it might be generalized to the earlier periods of this historic route: “Few people have realized how vast and unprecedented this sudden expansion of caravan traffic between India and China was, or how important. It was a unique and spectacular phenomenon. No complete story has yet been written about it, but it will always live in my memory as one of the great adventures of mankind. Moreover, it demonstrated to the world very convincingly that, should all modern means of communication and transportation be destroyed by some atomic cataclysm, the humble horse, man’s oldest friend, is ever ready to forge again a link between scattered peoples and nations.”Goullart 1955: 88].

 

 

A Yunnan pack mule and load.

 

Nowadays, Tibetans trade "Yartsa gompo," a dried caterpillar that each will sell for between four and ten dollars. Called chong cao in China it is a parasite-infected caterpillar that lives only in grasslands above 3,300 meters. The parasite, a kind of fungus, kills the caterpillar, then feeds on its body.

 

Every spring Tibetan nomads wander their yak meadows with a small, curved metal trowel looking for the caterpillars. Poking up less than an inch, the purplish, toothpick-shaped yartsa gompo stem is extremely difficult to spot—but the caterpillars are worth more than all their yaks combined.

 

In Chinese medicine shops throughout Asia, chong cao is sold as a cure-all for the ravages of aging, for health issues ranging from infection to inflammation, fatigue to phlegm to cancer. Displayed in climate-controlled glass cases, the highest quality caterpillars sell for nearly $80 a gram, which is about twice the price of today's gold.

 

Few Tibetans ride horses today and tea is no longer the primary drink in urban Tibet (Red Bull and Budweiser are everywhere). And yet, just as tea still comes from traditional regions of China, chong cao can be found only on the Tibetan Plateau. The Chinese are willing to pay as dearly for magic caterpillars as they once did for invincible horses.

 

 

Xishuangbanna

Xishuangbanna prefecture encompasses the subtropical lowlands of Yunnan. Its rolling hills are spotted with small Dai villages surrounded by acres and acres of tea. This is the land of Pu’er, a particularly flavored tea that is fermented and shaped into bricks or pancakes for easy transport by mule.

  

Dali

 

Dali Old City sits at 1,400 meters, with vertical peaks rising behind it like a green screen. A major conduit market town on the route, Dali is the cradle of Bai civilization and you will notice their signature whitewashed buildings with flower-painted borders. This ethnic minority group acted as middlemen between tea growers from Xishuangbanna and horse traders from Tibet.

 

 

Shaxi

The climb continues to Shaxi, another major trading hub designated as a Unesco World Heritage site. Cobbled streets, old horse stalls and small courtyard guesthouses that were once used for muleteers are all being preserved in Shaxi as it prepares for tourism. It is one of the most intact and beautiful sites along the Tea/Horse Road, with its market square framed by a performance stage and powerful statues guarding a temple; the square is still used by locals in the evenings for traditional dancing.

 

 

Lijiang

Traders rarely made the entire journey along the Tea/Horse Road, instead trading goods at markets along the way. Lijiang, also on the Unesco World Heritage List, was one such town. It is a stunning place if you can get past the theme park-feel and the crowds of tourists. With its ancient canal system filled with rushing water from the snow-topped peaks in the distance, topped by arched stone and wood bridges, and reflecting moody red lanterns in the evening, Lijiang’s personality is difficult to resist.

 

 

Zhongdian/Shangri-La

What is still locally known as Zhongdian (or, in Tibetan, Gyeltang) was officially changed to Shangri-La in 2001. At nearly 3,300 meters in elevation, Zhongdian swirls with the smell of wood and coal smoke permeating its cold, dry air. Here, ruddy-faced Tibetans stand out from the Han Chinese, as does their architecture: square, three-story homes with bright scrollwork trimming them. Tea is mixed with yak butter for a high-calorie drink in this shivery climate. Just outside the old city is the Songzanlin Monastery, a golden, multi-storied complex where Tibetan Buddhist monks make clockwise circles outside, and juniper smoke and Tibetan prayer flags burst against the blue sky.

 

A Chinese expert researching the Ancient Tea Horse Road recently found a complete map of the road drawn more than 150 years ago by a French missionary. The map reveals that the road traversed a series of towering mountains, with rivers flowing in between from the south to the north. Roughly speaking, there were two main routes:

 

Route One:

Begins in Xishuangbanna and Simao, home of Pu'er tea (via Dali, Shaxi, Lijiang, Zhongdian, Benzilan and Deqeng) in Yunnan Province to Zugong, Bamda, Rewoqe, Zayu or Qamdo, Lholung, Benba, Jiali, Gongbogyangda, Lhasa, Gyangze and Yadong in Tibet, before continuing into Myanmar, Nepal and India.

 

Route Two:

Begins in Ya'an in Sichuan Province to Qamdo via Luding, Kangding, Litang and Batang before merging with Route One into Lhasa. Tens of thousands of traveling horses and yaks created a definite path with their hoofs on the once-indiscernible road. Today, although even such traces of the ancient road are fading away, its cultural and historic values rema

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