The Tea Horse Road is one vast array of cultural, religious and commercial threads tied together by an intricate network of caravan tracks, roads, rivers, and mountains. Along these paths and roads flow stories of people: traders, nomadic tribesmen, monks, pilgrims, missionaries, vagabonds, philosophers, scribes.
The Tea Horse Road is also an epic novel, a world rich in history, rich in humanity, stories set against landscapes beautiful and bleak, heroic deeds of endurance and resourcefulness.
There is much to document in our understanding of these trade routes, their commercial, political, cultural and strategic importance, their role in the growth and decline of settlements, towns, cities, the nexus between the establishment of businesses–carvanserai, roadside taverns, stores–and the flow of goods and people, where our understanding of transportation and trade (so inextricably bound together) is informed by a “robust engagement” with the historical texts (Buddhist/Daoist literature, official histories, travel journals, songs, poetry, etc) but also illuminated by an imaginative fire.
Here I compile, edit and translate its history from Chinese sources, one text at a time. I will also insert excerpts from English sources as well as from my own writings which are italicized and marked [PM].
I will continually be adding new material to enlarge and refine what is already published. The blog will therefore be under permanent reconstruction.
I want the project to involve all kinds of people, some who have trekked sections of the tea horse road, others who have taken pictures and would like to showcase them here, and others still who have unearthed material and would love to share it.
Any textual sources or images that can document embarrassing lacunae would be greatly appreciated. All sources will be acknowledged and only published with your permission.
This project will be quite a ride and part of the fun is that I don’t really know when or where it will end.