Home>Travel Guide

Tea and Horse Caravan Road, Southern Silk Road of China


Tea and Horse Caravan Road is an ancient commercial passage. As its name indicates, Tea and Horse Caravan Road was of great significance to the trade of tea and horse, but other products passed it along as well.




The history of Tea and Horse Caravan Road can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty. At that time, tea was first introduced to the Tibetan area. Tea and Horse Caravan Road thrived during the Ming and Qing Dynasty. And it was in full flourish in the Second World War period.


Function & Status


Horse caravans carried tea, sugar and salt from Sichuan and Yunnan to Tibet and brought back colorful local mountain goods. The road also served as an important corridor for migration as well as a channel for cultural communication among the ethnic groups in western China; beyond this, it is a bridge for international cultural and economic exchange between China and India.


Although silk was not included in the trade goods carried over it, at times it has been termed the southern Silk Road of China, due to its importance in both economic and cultural aspects of Chinese history.



Two Major Routes


Tea and Horse Caravan Road passes through Hengduan Mountain Range and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateaus, which is an area with an abundant bio-diversity and complex topography. Generally speaking, the Tea and Horse Road follows two main routes.


One of them starts at the original place of the famous Pu’er tea production (present Xishuangbanna and Simao prefectures of Yunnan province) and passes through Dali, Lijiang, Zhongdian (present Shangri-La county) of Yunnan Province and Mangkang, Zuogong, Bangda, Changdu, Luolongzong, Gongbujiangda and Lhasa in Tibet.


The other route starts at Ya’an, Sichuan province, which is the major site of Yacha tea production, and goes through Luding, Kangding, Batang, Changdu and Lhasa, and then to Nepal and India.


Today’s Tea and Horse Caravan Road


Gradually disappearing with the dawn of modern civilization, Tea and Horse Caravan Road is now attracting attention due to the growth of tourism in southwest China. One reason is the ethnic and cultural diversity of the region.


Some famous old towns and villages which once were key stations and markets of the Tea and Horse Caravan Road have been listed among the most important international sites for historic preservation. For example, Lijiang, where is the inhabitants of Naxi ethnic groups, was been designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.


Besides its cultural and historic value, the road was also highly appreciated by adventurers and scientists.

China Tours
Quick Inquiry
  • Full Name:
  • Email:
  • Tell us your idea: