The tea caravan assembles in the frontier town of Tatsienlu where the carriers hands over their load. Here ponirs, yaks and mules are loaded with the tea and driven through 20.000 foot high mountains to the inland marked.
The men who carries the staple diet of Tibet over the mountain rout as their caravan rests on its way into the interior, the Tibetans rest to leeward of their loads and refreshes them selves with butter tea made in the cylindrical wooden churn to the left.West of Chungking lies a wonderful country which Japan, in all her long struggles with China, was destined never to reach. Its mountain barriers and mile-deep gorges have kept away the invader and preserved a large part of Central Asia from the changes usually wrought by time and civilisation. Here the hills have been formed by human toil into tiers of level platforms, where rice is grown and streams are diverted to flow down the tiers, thus providing the rice with the liquid mud which it requires in its early stages.
|Millions of these men and women have never known any other diet but rice, and yet the Szechwan tea carriers are the strongest men in the world. The tea carriers travel across Szechwan on what was once an important trans-Asia highway, the Old lmperial Post Road from Peking to Lhassa.Although it is only about six feet wide and composed of irregular broken stones, it was for hundreds of years the great artery of communication for the Chinese Emperors across their enormous Empire. The Emperor’s diplomatic runners could traverse the 2,000 miles from Peking to Lhassa in 23 days.
A one-week journey, westwards from Chungking, is the high mountain wall of Tibet, which stretches for more than a thousand miles north and south on China’s western frontier.
The Lhassa Post Mountain Road leads into a deep cleft in this wall, and, with sky-scraping cliffs on both sides, passes through the gloomy corridor to Tatsienlu, the goal of the tea carriers from China, for they will go no further westwards to face the gaunt passes of Tibet.Tatsienlu is a bustling place, and down its narrow streets stride the shaggy, powerful figures of the Tibetans, always smiling and cheerful. The men are six foot tall, with mahogany complexions tanned by the mountain winds and sun, their hair is uncut and hangs down to the waist, or is made up into plaits and wound about the head.
On the Imperial Post Road throug the mountains of Lhassa. This was once the great artery of communication for the Chinese Eperrors. Now over its broken stones, pack animals carry tea to satisfy the insatiable demands of Tibetans.