Watch all the episodes of this historical documentary on the tea horse road by CCTV/CNTV. All episodes are in Chinese, supplemented with English subtitles.
Resembling the famous Silk Road, the Ancient Tea Road located in southwestern China was an important gateway for transportation and communication between ancient China and West Asia. It was a giant platform for the political, economic, social and cultural intersection of different ethnic groups and a gigantic lifeline stretching on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Tea and tea culture were first exported from China to the West. For centuries, caravans carried tea from one destination to anther, from one country to another, even to the other side of the earth. It became a never-ending link connecting different ethnic groups and continents.
Searching for traces of the caravans of the ancient road is like salvaging a sunken boat in the ocean. This missing tribe has been hiding in the mountains, valleys and forests of the vast southwest. Only from the scattered folktales can we faintly see their figures.
For the caravans of the past, the ancient road was largely a test of life and will. Many of the spectacles were life or death moments. And there were so many such moments in their lives. There were endless roads and nonstop hurdles.
The ancient road is motionless in the paintings, but the road that carries time, culture, caravans, and business travellers. The hooves are the needles, allowing the road to sing its songs on the horseback.
Yanjing Village is properly described as a throat. It’s not only the gate to Tibet, but also a spiritual home for many ethnic groups and cultures. In the 19th century, the foreign missionaries entered Tibet from India via the ancient road, and then made their way to Yanjing, bringing the Western religion to the local Tibetans and Naxi people.
The most important function of the ancient road is trade and circulation. As small as households, and as large as trans-provincial and transnational business families, their success depended primarily on this road. For many people, the ancient road is the road of fortune and prosperity.
The midsection of the ancient road is the converging point of Yunnan-Tibet and Sichuan-Tibet Ancient Tea-Horse roads. The majority of the residents here are Tibetans, and most of the famous horse drivers are from this area. A song about the town names of the ancient roads is still very popular today.