By Augustine Anthuvan | Posted: 05 October 2010

YUNNAN, China: The Silk Road connecting the East and West is probably one of the most historically significant trade routes.

But have you heard about the Tea Horse Road?

Well, if a group of chinese scholars from the southwesten province of Yunnan could have its way, the ancient Tea Horse Road will soon be up there on the world tourism map.

Artefacts discovered from archaeological expeditions tracing the route of the ancient Tea Horse Road are now providing an excellent platform to promote Chinese culture.

And if these artefacts could talk, they would speak volumes about adventurous journeys merchants took travelling with their horses and mules, carrying chinese tea over mountainous caravan routes to places as far as Tibet, India and Southeast Asia.

Yunnan University’s Chamagudao Culture Institute director Mu Jihong said: “Southern China, with its mountains and rivers, was very inaccessible. ”

“But the people in Yunnan needed to communicate and trade with the outside world. So via the “Tea Horse Road”, tea gradually spread worldwide”.

Professor Mu is one of the recognised pioneers in the field of research relating to the ancient Tea Horse Road.

Cultural heritage in China mainly spread in a linear fashion.

“There are four main ‘lines’ of extension which cut across big regions and come into contact with many people,” prof Mu said.

“The first of the four main ‘lines’ is the grand canal from Hangzhou to Beijing. The second is the Great Wall extending from Beijing to the shoreline and even Xinjiang and Gansu.

“The third is the northern Silk Road from Chang’an to central Asia and beyond while the fourth is the ‘Tea Horse Road'”.

Efforts are underway to rebuild and promote parts of the tea horse road as a must-visit tourist attraction.

A part of the Tea Horse Road has been preserved for locals and tourists.

Chinese scholars have done extensive research on this route and how it was instrumental in moving people and goods from Kunming in China all the way down to Thailand.

If provincial authorities working together with the academia and private sector can find more ways to jointly market puer tea with the ancient Tea Horse Road, that will most certainly place Yunnan on the world tourist map of rich ethnic cultural heritage.


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