China has a history of trade with the rest of the world that goes back 2000 years. It’s most famous route is the Silk Road, that extended from the ancient capital Xian all the way to Rome. Another lesser known route is the Horse Tea Road, stretching an unbelievable 1400 miles from China’s verdant valleys in Sichuan and Yunnan all the way to Lhassa in Tibet. While silk merchants had to brave crossing the infamous Gobi and taklamakan deserts, tea merchants had to negotiate 17,000 feet high mountain passes and death defying narrow paths along Cliffside’s to reach Tibet’s capital. Tibetans had discovered tea and could not get enough of it! And Chinese needed horses to fight Mongolian tribes, of which Tibetans had plenty of. By the end of the 13th century, China was trading an estimated 2 million pounds of tea for 25,000 horses a year.
Very few intact sections of the Horse Tea Road remain but you can still trek and see those few sections in the north western part of Yunnan along the Tibet border. Fellow Denis Page spent 3 weeks in Yunnan designing a new itinerary that will part of a series called “Remote China” where he hiked and photographed parts of the Horse Tea Road. From snow cap mountains to buddhist monasteries, salt butter tea and a few yaks along the way, this remote part of China is stunning in sheer magnitude and challenging terrain.
Contact Denis Page directly if you are interested in exploring Yunnan.