New Highways Revitalise Ancient Tea Horse Roads
Article Source: ADB website
By: Jason Rush
MORE THAN 1,200 years ago, during the Tang Dynasty, merchants in Pu’er – a village nestled in the hills of Yunnan – began forging trade routes to carry the region’s unique, aromatic tea to the far corners of Asia. Several major "Tea Horse Roads", named for the horses used to carry the tea, spanned out from Pu’er. One road headed north through Kunming and Beijing, while another headed south through what is today the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and Thailand.
Today these ancient trade routes are being revitalized, and bringing new life to communities that dot the landscape along their paths. A new highway is connecting isolated rural communities with modern commercial corridors. The previous road was closed four months each year during the rainy season, limiting communities’ access to basic social services, and impeding trade and employment opportunities in the region. With the new road complete, communities now have better access to schools, health centers, commodities, and markets.
In Man Mai village, nestled in the Xishuangbanna region of the PRC’s Yunnan province, 19-year-old Ha Ge and his family own a field of ancient tea trees whose roots date back more than a thousand years. The tea from the trees is a highly valued commodity in PRC, and the family is seeing firsthand how expanded access to broader markets can change lives.
"Before 2000 we weren’t making much money, but today we can make up to 8,000 yuan ($ 1,125) a month or more for our tea," Ha Ge says. "We’ve been able to buy a phone, a television and a motorcycle."
Ha Ge and his community now can tap into regional markets willing to pay a premium price for Pu’er tea, bettering their lives in the process.
Mr. Peng Je, Director of Xishuangbanna’s Tea Administration, is happy that more people across in the region, and the globe, are able to enjoy the area’s most famous ancient delicacy.
"In this area tea is life," says. "You cannot live without tea."
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