Tea Horse Road

Tickets: free
Opening Hours: all day

The Tea Horse Road, now commonly known as the Ancient Tea Horse Road, served as a crucial network of trade routes connecting the tea-producing regions of Yunnan (mainly centered in Pu’er and Xishuangbanna) and Sichuan (particularly around Ya’an) with regions across China, notably Tibet. It is sometimes referred to as the Southern Silk Road and even extended as far as Bengal in South Asia.

The origins of the Tea Horse Road lie in the traditional “tea-for-horse” trade between the Han Chinese and Tibetan peoples. This trade was facilitated by the establishment of “tea-horse trade markets” . From the 6th century until the 20th century, traders from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces traversed the rugged terrain by foot and horseback, using pack animals to transport tea in exchange for horses with Tibetan traders. This exchange gave rise to the name Tea Horse Road.

The history of this trade route can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618-907) and the Tibetan (Tubo) regime. Tea was introduced to Tibetan areas during the Tang dynasty, likely through close interactions between the Tibetan people and various ethnic groups from southwest China. It is plausible that tea from Sichuan and Yunnan had already reached Tibet during this period.

However, the development of large-scale commerce in tea and horses, as well as the establishment of the caravan road for this trade, likely occurred during the Song dynasty (960-1279). During this time, the demand for tea would have increased steadily as it became an essential beverage in Tibetan daily life. Thus, the Tea Horse Road played a significant role in facilitating trade and cultural exchange between China and Tibet over many centuries.

Popular Yunnan Tours

Customize Your Own Tour


    We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.