The Ancient Tea Horse Caravan in Riwoqe County, Chamdo

Chinese Name: 茶马古道
English Name: The Ancient Tea Horse Caravan in Riwoqe County, Chamdo
Location: Located in Riwoqe County, Chamdo Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region
Admission Fee: Free
Opening Hours: All Day

About the Ancient Tea Horse Caravan in Riwoqe County

For thousands of years, only humans and horses treaded the mountains of Southwest China as they followed an ancient pathway through the Chinese hinterlands and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Along the unpaved and rugged pathway that was formed, commodities like tea, salt and sugar flowed into Tibet. Meanwhile, horses, cows, furs, musk and other local products made their way to the outside world. The road was called the Ancient Tea-horse Road, and it stretched across more than 4,000km, mainly through Southwest China Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet.

Diqu site(地曲遗址) of the Ancient Tea-horse Road is located in Rexi Village(热西村), Binda Township(宾达乡)of Riwoqe County(类乌齐县), Chamdo Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, on the halfway up Zongluo Mountain(宗洛山)of the east bank of Ziqu River(紫曲河). The satellite location for the north latitude: 31 ° 07 ‘46.1’, longitude 096 ° 45 ‘02.0 “, elevation of 3762 meters, the existing more than 200 meters long, natural environment and ecological protection is good, the ancient and mysterious Tea-horse Road, endowed with distinct cultural characteristics in this area and deep cultural connotation.

Diqu site(地曲遗址) of the Ancient Tea-horse Road is 207 meters long and 2 meters wide. The ancient road is made up of 20 — 30 centimeters of the park of the cliff at the cliff section, which forms a suspension bridge. The site was listed as a county cultural relic protection unit in September 2007.

The Evolution and Development of the Ancient Tea-horse Road

The ancient commercial passage first appeared during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Then it experienced the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, that is a period of more than 1,200 years. The Ancient Tea-horse Road promoted exchanges in culture and religion, and saw ethnic migration that closely resembled what was experienced on the well-known Silk Road.
From ancient times, Ma Bang (caravans) has been the main vehicles used for transportation. Year after year, thousands of caravans traveled the rough road while the hoof beats and the sounds of clear bells broke the tranquility of the canyon. The road opened a vital pathway for economics and trade with the outside world.
In World War II, this Ancient Tea-horse Road became the only transportation line for the southwest of China. Caravans transported large quantities of international assistance from India, which greatly supported China Sino-Japanese War.
After the accomplishment of Yunnan-Tibet Highway and the Chengdu-Lhasa Highway, automobiles replaced the caravans, and the Ancient Tea-horse Road became a part of history. But in the outlying mountainous area of Yunnan, caravans remain the main transportation today.

The Attractions of the Ancient Tea-horse Road

Ancient Tea-horse Road features the imposing scenery and a soul-stirring quiet. Sometimes, things seem static and the surrounding mountains stand silent. There is a kind of beauty in the desolation that may easily lead people to believe they are experienced a prehistoric place when they visit. The distant mountains reveal strong and exquisite ridges while rain and snow melt together, rushing down from the mountains and rapidly gathering before flowing into innumerable rivers. Besides mountain and rivers, there are also many peculiar stones, incomparably marvelous clouds, as well as unusual light illuminating the sky as one travels the road.
Tens of thousands of traveling horses and yaks created a definite pathway with their hooves on the once-indiscernible road. Today, although even such traces of the ancient road are fading away, its cultural and historic values remain.

The Main Routes of the Ancient Tea-horse Road

Generally speaking, there were two main roads.
Route one begins in Ya’an in Sichuan to Chamdo via Luding, Kangding, Litang and Batang before merging with Route One into Lhasa.
Route two begins in Xishuangbanna and Simao, home to Puer tea via Dali, Lijiang, Zhongdian, Benzilan and Deqeng in Yunnan to Zugong, Bamda, Rewoqe, Zayu or Qamdo, Lholung, Benba, Jiali, Gongbogyangda, Lhasa, Gyangze and Yadong in Tibet, before continuing into Myanmar, Nepal and India.

Attraction Transportation

China National Highway 214
China National Highway 317

How to Get to Qamdo Riwoqe County

Located in the Bangda Grassland, the Chamdo Bangda Airport is the world’s highest airport and has the longest runway. It is 136 kilometers (84.5 miles) from Chamdo County. As the first lateral airport in Tibet, Chamdo Bangda Airport started to be built in 1993 and finished in October, 1994. At present, it has air routes to/from domestic cities including Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lhasa, Tianjin, Xian, and Xining; meanwhile, flights to/from Nepal are also operated at this airport.

Passengers can take airport shuttle bus to Riwoqe County from the airport. 
The airport inquiry number is +86 0895-4821004.

The Prefecture is over 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) from Chengdu and over 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) from Lhasa. Every week at least three buses travel between Qamdo and the two cities. Apart from regular buses, the tourist bureau sometimes sends special buses to Lhasa for visitors. It usually takes 10 days from Lhasa to visit Riwoqe.

Attraction Travel Tips

  1. Traveling Hours: several days
  2. Traveling Seasons: June to September.
  3. High Altitude Sickness Avoiding: Better take some medicines for relief and keep warm all the time.
  4. As there is a large temperature gap between daytime and night, it is highly recommended to take along some pieces of thermal clothing, hat, and gloves and so on.
  5. Please try your best to respect the religious belief and local customs.