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The Ancient Tea-Horse Road

The View from the Path of the Old Tea-Horse Road
The View from the Path of the Old Tea-Horse Road

Tea has been traded far and wide since time immemorial. Before there were planes, trains, boats, and automobiles, tea was transported strapped to the backs of people and horses. For over a millennium, one ancient footpath has connected the tea markets of Yunnan, China to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Known as the Ancient Tea-Horse Road, this unpaved and rugged path— which was formed only by the foot traffic of humans and horses— is one of the most dangerous ancient commercial roads. It stretches across nearly 2,500 miles of mountains, rivers, canyons, valleys and planes.  In addition to tea, trade goods like salt and sugar flow into Tibet via the Tea-Horse Road, while livestock, furs, musk, and other Tibetan products are transported to world beyond.

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