Shaxi: Ancient Tea Horse Road


Yunnan Province


June 6, 2014

Dear Friends,

During my brief visit to the livestock market in Shaxi, I recalled the ditty “Mules” that I learned at Boy Scout Camp.   As I trod the grounds among horses, cows, bulls and other assorted browsers, I paid strict attention to the lyric.*

Shaxi is an historic town along the Ancient Tea Horse Road that connects China to Burma to Tibet to India.  But Shaxi is unlike Lijiang, another caravan stop to the northth.  Lijiang boasts an airport that dismounts herds of visitors.  Shaxi retains an “ancient” atmosphere.

I found a spacious central square with the Three Terraced Pavillion, a quiet temple, (Xingjiao - a Ming Dynasty Bai Buddhist Temple), a lovely ached bridge, the livestock market, and several attractive two-legged strays.    As I walk across the ached bridge (Yujin Qiao) towards the livestock market, I am walking the same trail as the horse caravans. 

The only commotion I heard in town emanated from the lonely cows and the agressive bulls.

Enjoying the tranquil atmosphere, 



For further reading about this one thousand year old trade route:

The Tea Horse Road: 茶马道 now generally referred to as the Ancient Tea Horse Road 茶马古道 was a network of mule caravan paths winding through the dangerous and remote mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou in Southwest China.  It is also sometimes referred to as the Southern Silk Road.

From around a thousand years ago, the Ancient Tea Route was a trade link from Yunnan, one of the first tea-producing regions, to Bengal and India via Burma to Tibet; and to Central China via Sichuan Province.  

In addition to tea, the mule caravans carried salt. Both people and horses carried heavy loads, the tea porters sometimes carrying over 60–90 kg, which was often more than their own body weight in tea. 

It is believed that it was through this trading network that tea (typically tea bricks) first spread across China and Asia from its origins in Pu’er County, near Simao Prefecture in Yunnan. 

In exchange for the tea and salt, the Chinese purchased war horses that they used against the nomadic tribes in the north. 

Even More: 


*Mules  (Sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)


On Mules We Find Two Legs Behind

And Two We Find Before;

Don't Stand Behind the Two Behind

Or You'll Find what They Be For.


 When We're Behind the Two Behind

We Find What These Be For;

So Stand Before the Two Behind

And Behind the Two Before.