Empty yourself of everything

“Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind become still.
The ten thousand things rise and fall
while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish
and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness,
which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy
leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy,
the mind is open.
With an open mind,
you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted,
you will act wisely.
Being wise, you will
attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be
at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao
is eternal.
And though the body dies,
the Tao will never pass away.”

~ Lao Tsu-Tao te Ching

Dark chocs 'help cut heart attack risks'

SYDNEY – Dark chocolate has ‘significant’ benefits for high-risk cardiac patients and could prevent heart attacks and strokes, Australian researchers say.

Eating 100g of chocolate with a 70 per cent or higher cocoa content every day was an effective risk reduction measure, according to a study by Melbourne’s Monash University

Lead researcher Ella Zomer said 70 fatal and 15 non-fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people could be prevented.

‘Our findings indicate dark chocolate therapy could provide an alternative to or be used to complement drug therapeutics in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease,’ Ms Zomer said of the study published in the British Medical Journal.

Her research partner, Professor Chris Reid, said measurements from the 2,013 Australians studied, all of whom had classic risk factors such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol or body weight, were run through epidemiological modelling.

The projections of likely deaths and other non- fatal events between those who consumed dark chocolate and those who did not were compared and there was a notable difference.

High-cocoa chocolate is beneficial because it contains antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols which help keep blood vessels dilated, thereby reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow. However, experts caution that excessive consumption of dark chocolate leads to obesity, itself a cause of cardiovascular disease.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A tea with the power to unwind time

A TEA WITH THE POWER TO UNWIND TIME
By Inara Verzemnieks
Published in Portland’s premier gourmet food and wine magazine “Mix Magazine” in April/May of 2008.

I had never heard the term “tea drunk” until I met Paul Rosenberg. Now I can say I know exactly what it means. I’m talking head floating off your shoulders I’ve never felt so good in my life why shouldn’t I run away to Paris drunk. All from a cup of tea.

It’s the strangest thing. Beautiful and unnerving and quieting all at once. And it all starts in the attic of a rambling Portland bungalow, where Rosenberg, 49, a former chef and Asian antiquities dealer, regularly hosts tastings of incredibly rare teas, hoping to expose people to the nuances and poetry of the drink. He specializes in rare Chinese teas and one tea in particular: Puerh.

Picked from Camellia assamica trees- some more than a thousand years old and as thick and tall as Douglas firs – that grow in Yunnan province in southwestern China, puerh tea has developed a passionate worldwide following in recent years, stirring the fascinations of collectors and speculators into heights normally reserved for oenophiles. Some of the older, sought after puerhs can command $1000 a pound.
Continue reading A tea with the power to unwind time

Interview with Master Wang – The Reclaiming of Pu-Erh

WY: Pu-Erh is the oldest, and perhaps, one of the most mysterious teas in the world, and most certainly, a treasure of the tea world. The history of Pu-Erh is fraught with adventure, travel, and international intrigue. Master Wang, you are an herbalist and traditional health care practitioner. Tell us your background and interest with Pu-Erh.

MW: I was born and raised in Yunnan, the origin of Pu-Erh where tea is a big part of life for many people in Yunnan including myself. I grew up with this tea culture. My real passion for drinking and sharing fine Pu-Erh tea didn’t start until I experienced a major health crisis 20 years ago. As a result, I was forced to review and change some of my life priorities and choices. This began my journey of health cultivation which has led to my extremely sensitive palate and olfaction (sense of smell). I have become able to discern the healing power of clean, fine Pu-Erh tea from that of immature or sub standard teas.

Enjoying and sharing masterfully crafted Pu-Erh has become a transformative journey: pleasurable, healing and invigorating. Tea, especially fine Pu-Erh has become a way of life for me. It’s beyond words.

Being an herbalist helps me distinguish what is good Pu-Erh tea according to how the tea impacts the human body. I drink tea with my entire body! If the energetics of the tea warms my extremities and causes the chi to run to the bottom of my feet, and I feel my dan tien (navel area) open, then it’s good tea. If it merely causes heat to rise to the crown of my head, it’s not my “cup of tea.” Good Pu-Erh tea will tend to induce mild perspiring on the crown of your head as well as opening up the meridians of the body. It’s one of the most medically efficacious teas from a Chinese herbal medicine standpoint. If the tea makes my tongue numb, it is likely that there are chemicals in the tea. If taking a deep breath of the tea – especially dry leaves — makes you sneeze, it may contain unwanted mold in it. Many Pu-Erh teas in the market commonly have these types of impure qualities.

In the 1980’s, I met one of China’s legendary Pu-Erh Tea Masters, Mr. Zhang Qing Ming whose father happens to be from my same little town—Tengchong in Yunnan. This started my mentorship and collaboration with him and his masters. This legendary lineage of 3 generations of Pu-Erh masters have been on the forefront of reclaiming the original Pu-Erh.

WY: The Pu-Erh industry has seen some changes lately, with worldwide interest and much bidding and speculating, driving prices to unknown levels. Subsequently, that market has also somewhat crashed in China. What is your opinion on the current state of the Pu-Erh market?

MW: Every year I go back to Yunnan to work with my Yunnan tea team. One of the things I notice is that more fine Pu-Erh is being produced and consumed. However, the creation of fine Pu-Erh is still a “lost art” practiced well by relatively few masters. Therefore, educating and sharing of the art and craft of Pu-Erh with more tea people is vital. As a native of Yunnan living in San Francisco, California for the last 13 years, I clearly see the importance of bridging of the East and West in order to fully reclaim Pu-Erh.

Over the last few years many involved in the tea trade profited from inferior quality Pu-Erh. Some of these teas were at best tolerable, and at worst, gave people headaches and other unwanted health consequences. Fortunately, as consumers began to appreciate fine Pu-Erh with greater depth and health benefits, they stopped buying the lower grade Pu-Erh that had flooded the market.

As a result, the market crashed. However, I see this as a positive thing because this is the beginning of a tea renaissance in which all the fine and mature Pu-Erh teas will emerge. The Pu-Erh industry in China is going to continue becoming more professional and the market more mature. More and more individual tea drinkers are trusting their own palate and feeling when they select their teas regardless of hype or trends.

WY: Why is Yunnan trying to reclaim Pu-Erh tea, and what positive actions do you think have taken place?

MW:

1) This has been a joint effort of the last 3 generations of Pu-Erh masters, in Yunnan as well as in Hong Kong, Taiwan etc, to reclaim the ancient Pu-Erh tradition. For them, this journey of reclaiming and sharing Pu-Erh is their life-local commitment.

2) Historically, Pu-Erh has been the identity of the entire Yunnan region. A supreme Pu-Erh equals a supreme Yunnan.

3) With Pu-Erh as one of the main industries in Yunnan, there have been financial and economic motivations to reclaim Pu-Erh.

Pu-Erh tea is originally from Yunnan, and has the taste of Yunnan. Every blade of grass, every flower speaks of its heritage and the soil that it came from, and Pu-Erh tea is no different. Pu-Erh teas are trees, unlike most common teas in the world that are bushes. That means that for a 5 feet tree, the roots are 20 feet deep. Did you know that the original character ‘cha’ for tea, actually speaks of these trees? The upper radical is ‘plant’, the middle character is ‘man’, and the bottom character is ‘tree’. Because of the hiatus since the 1950s until largely the 1980s, much Pu-Erh tea was moved to southern places like Hong Kong. There was little Pu-Erh production in Yunnan during that period of time, and much of what was known was lost. Many of the old masters have died. The taste of Pu-Erh became acclimated to that of the taste of Hong Kong Pu-Erh, an aged, fermented, character. Hong Kong is very humid and induced the fermentation and aging processes very successfully. The problem though, was the excessive mustiness and moldiness, and the other smells, that a crowded city like Hong Kong could not prevent from infiltrating the teas. Yunnan is a pristine place, full of high mountains and deep caves. There is a lot of virgin land and clean environment not only for the tea trees to thrive and grow, but also, most importantly, for them to store and age successfully in. It is a much more appropriate place for the complete processing of Pu-Erh. That is why Yunnan wants to take what it knows and what was learned in Hong Kong, improve on it, and raise the quality standards of Pu-Erh tea at large.

In terms of positive actions now taking place, we can see the following:

1) The Yunnan government and tea industry are working for higher standards.
2) Tea professionals are actively supporting dialog and collaboration amongst different tea professionals locally and internationally.
As an example, I along with other tea professionals were recently invited to an international tea conference and competition. A few key points were established and standardized.

WY: What are some of these new quality standards?

MW: Simplicity, Cleanliness and Purity are the number one standards. Begin with good raw materials. That means the leaves are from trees from Yunnan (Camellia Sinensis Pu-Erh), not bushes from elsewhere. Most tea bushes elsewhere were grafted with shallow root systems, supported by fertilizer. True Pu-Erh trees found in Yunnan are grown from seed, and have deep root systems, and require no chemical fertilizers. That means the raw material starts out to be high quality. From harvesting to transporting to the factory for processing to final storage, no foreign smells may be introduced. That means that every receptacle for these teas are kept clean and free from usage for other means, and no foreign matters are placed close by. That is the most basic definition of Purity and Cleanliness. No impurities, no chemical fertilizers, no pesticides. You see, tea trees are all good, it’s the people that sometimes make it bad. Simplicity means that the character of the tea has deep substance, appreciated more and more over time. No scenting or perfuming is needed when it is good, simple tea.

WY: What about the processing of the teas? Any new standards pertaining to those?

MW: After good raw materials are harvested, the best Pu-Erhs must be sun-dried. You see, if there wasn’t adequate sun that day, the wet leaves can become moldy quickly. The natives will try to cover this fact by quickly pan-firing or even roasting to dry the leaves. The real professional knows this while many purported ‘experts’ cannot tell the difference.

Next, the fermentation of Pu-Erh and its aging process is still mostly a mystery of nature. The starting points may be the same for many teas but the ending results may vary quite a bit. Did it end up an excellent piece after 10 years? 20 years? It cannot be known until then. That’s why in the new quality standard, the re-combining of the best aged teas are now promoted. Firstly, some teas are aged loose, but most are compressed. The best aged Pu-Erhs are a recombination effort of the best aged compressed Pu-Erhs unraveled, and then recombined with other high quality ones, and then re-compressed. In the past, good quality aged Pu-Erhs tend to be combined with poor quality ones for sales purposes. The consumer may get a mix of good and bad for the price of the good. In the new quality standard, only the best Pu-Erhs may be recombined together.

WY: You mentioned that the preferred taste of Pu-Erh is now known as ‘Hong Kong style’, and promoted and favored by the largest consumer base of Pu-Erh lovers, the people who go to dim sum parlors. How does the taste of Pu-Erh in Yunnan differ?

MW: The taste preference of Hong Kong is great, and we tried to learn and elicit the best, and leave out the rest. For example, we like the aged character of the teas, but not the moldiness of it. We now have three standard production styles: uncooked green Pu-Erh to be post-fermented and aged naturally, cooked Pu-Erh that can be consumed immediately, and cooked Pu-Erh aged extensively to resemble the preferred taste of Hong Kong, and we call that one the ‘Hong Kong Style’ Pu-Erh. Our next step is to have this fine “Hong Kong Pu-Erh” made in Yunnan.

WY: Any other criteria for quality?

MW: Heritage. The knowledge that is handed down from generation to generation is invaluable. In the recent years of Pu-Erh speculation, many outsiders have set up factories in Yunnan to make Pu-Erh tea without the proper foundation and knowledge, and certainly, no lineage to speak of. So the direct lineage from the old masters is very important.

WY: Finally, since Master Wang, you are a master herbalist, what are some traditional Chinese medicine perspectives on Pu-Erh that deem it beneficial to the tea drinker?

MW: Good Pu-Erhs have many beneficial health benefits. The green uncooked Pu-Erhs have cooling and calming effects if consumed very diluted, as it is very potent. Over dosage can lead to adverse health consequences. This is in the spirit of the homeopathic principle of “less is more.”

In addition, Pu-Erh tea is rich in vitamins and minerals. According to Chinese medicine Pu-Erh is most effective for reducing stress and eliminating toxins from the body. The cooked Pu-Erhs are great for lowering cholesterol and uric acid reduction, improving sleep, moving one’s chi to the extremities, opening meridians, preventing blockage and aids digestion. Aged teas both from cooked or uncooked Pu-Erhs are effective for reducing headaches, lowering high blood pressure, and are all good anti-oxidants. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Similarly, there is good caffeine and bad caffeine. Fine Pu-Erh teas have good caffeine. It stimulates the nervous system and opens all channels, but you can sleep well after drinking it!

Pu-Erh tea is art expressed as medicine, and also medicine expressed as art. It’s a drinkable antique, and it’s value is priceless even beyond speculation. I look forward to having other tea masters and tea professionals add to the growing international dialog, collaboration and sharing of the powerful living art and living medicine known as Pu-Erh tea.

For years, as a health practitioner and tea educator I have worked enthusiastically to verbally share the spirit of “Chan Cha Yi Wei” — Zen and Tea is One Taste. Yet, each time I am blessed with a cup of fine Pu-Erh I find myself speechless, because as the old Zen saying goes, “Tea Talks.”

In closing, I want to thank you for this opportunity of sharing this fine cup of tea and invite you for many more cups to come.

Suzuki Morihisa Tetsubin

Taking Their Tea, and Past, Seriously
Teapot makers use age-old methods to create functional objets d’art.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
August 02, 2001|VALERIE REITMAN

MORIOKA, Japan — When Shiiko Kumagai’s grandfather, a legendary craftsman who made exquisite handmade cast-iron teapots, died, she was making jewelry in Tokyo, a few hundred miles and light-years away.

A few years later, her father died, and the family teapot-making business, which had survived for 15 generations, was in danger of collapse. “This family has a long history,” she says. “Someone had to take over.”

And so, 12 years ago, Kumagai, a petite woman with delicate features, adopted the business name of her grandfather and those before him: Morihisa Suzuki. She donned work clothes and repaired to the primitive workshop tucked just behind the family’s storefront and home, where as a child she would watch her grandfather pour molten iron into molds for the teakettles that had won him the government’s prized designation as a “living national treasure.”

suzukimorihisa

Kushime Tetsubin Small 櫛目丸形鉄瓶 1.0 Liter
Prime Minister Book Prize

The techniques of Kumagai, now 54, remain much the same as her grandfather’s–and, for that matter, differ little from those of her 17th century ancestors. Her forefathers were vassals making household goods for the daimyo, or lord, who ruled an area, then known as Nambu, on the northern part of Japan’s main island.

She was skeptical that the other dozen or so men who still make teapots in Morioka–many of them also descendants of 17th century craftsmen–would accept and respect a woman in this small city renowned for its cast-iron wares. Their solid, heavy pots with a dull luster convey a feeling of strength and substance, and many feature a raised-knob pattern.

“It’s not a matter if you’re a man or a woman, but this is really heavy physical work,” says Takahiro Koizumi, a male Morioka teapot maker.

But with help from the two craftsmen who worked for her grandfather, she has managed not only to keep the business afloat, but also to win the respect and admiration of her peers with the delicate shapes of her teapots.

One lovely creation, which retails for about $600, is shaped somewhat like a rounded version of Cinderella’s coach, with vertical lines delicately enveloping the orb’s sides. She created the pot by painstakingly etching a pattern into a sand-and-clay mold, into which iron is poured.

suzukimorihisa2

“Women are more imaginative, creative than men,” says her male counterpart, Tomoyuki Maeda, who also makes teapots in a craft village on the city’s fringe. “Her works are very sensitive. She can draw very thin drawings like hair–the kind of thing men can never imagine or think about doing.”

Turning their Nanbu tetsubin , as the teapots are called in Japanese, into more objets d’art than kettles is one way these traditional craftspeople are trying to keep their livelihoods intact.

The challenge for Morioka’s dozen or so tetsubin makers is to keep their traditional cast-iron tea ceremony vessels and tetsubin alive and relevant in an era in which electric hot-water heaters are the norm and a lingering economic decline has tightened pocketbooks.

Teapot maker Koizumi, for example, is advertising on the Internet and also sells ceramics in his store. Others, such as Nobuho Miya, have tried to find more contemporary uses for cast iron, rendering it into fashionable casserole dishes with wooden handles and trivets, to supplement teapot sales.

Until a recent resurgence, the use of once-requisite tetsubin –usually perched on a charcoal-burning hibachi inside the home–had been declining for decades. The iron teapots are no longer a necessity for daily life, thanks first to the advent of propane burners, then gas stoves and now the electric thermos-like water heaters that are omnipresent in Japanese homes these days. The thermoses provide a ready supply of hot water to make ocha, Japanese green or brown tea.

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The electric thermoses are far easier to use than the iron pots, from which water must be dumped immediately or rust will form. And they’re far less expensive than the handmade tetsubin, which start at about $200 and can cost 10 to 20 times as much. The similar cast-iron pots used for boiling water in the refined Japanese tea ceremony can easily cost several thousand dollars.

The pots last forever if well cared for, so there’s little demand for replacements. “Ironware is too strong,” tetsubin- maker Koizumi says jokingly. “We need to sell something that’s easily broken.”

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And the handmade pots are also being supplanted by sales of machine-made tetsubin, some of which are manufactured in Southeast Asia. Others are made right in Morioka by the huge Iwachu factory.

The factory, which makes handsome cast-iron pots, pans, skillets, woks and decorative ware, exports brightly colored cast-iron teapots with raised knobs that can be seen in department stores from France to Los Angeles. The pots exported to the U.S. have an enamel surface, to prevent rusting, an Iwachu spokesman says.

While also making them rust-proof, the enamel coating eliminates one of the key factors that have helped the handmade pots enjoy a resurgence in Japan in recent years: Water boiled in the tetsubin is infused with iron, purportedly helping to counteract widespread anemia in Japan. Water boiled in the pots also tastes sweeter, somehow eliminating the chlorine-taste of city water.

Those who do use tetsubin often combine old and new, boiling the water in the teapots, then dumping it into the thermos to keep it warm throughout the day.

It’s a wonder the tetsubin craft has survived at all. The beautiful pots made before World War II are scarce because the tetsubin- makers were required to donate any pots in their stores to the war effort, and the pots were melted down to make ammunition. Kumagai has just two pots that were made by her grandfather.

Craftsmen were endangered during the war as well because the Japanese government required most men to serve in the war. But some craftsmen successfully petitioned the government to spare them from having to serve, while also allowing them to make a few pots annually to preserve their skills. Koizumi’s family, for example, was allowed to make 20 pots annually, a coup because making the pots also consumed precious fuel.

Museums and books show the beauty of the old teapots–some in shapes such as Mt. Fuji, others with flowers or wild horses in relief. Among the most prized were silvery kettles formed from the sand-iron panned from local river beds–a kind of material known as a phantom metal said to possess extraordinary qualities. Today, however, most of the pots contain iron imported from Brazil and elsewhere.

Making the pots is still painstaking. The molds contain an inner core on which sand and clay are laid and then patterns–ranging from sprays of flowers to thousands of dots that form knobs of sorts on the exterior–are etched or punched by hand.

Shape is also important. It’s said that the sound the teapot makes when it boils should sound like the wind blowing through pine trees. The lid should rise up and click slightly when the water is boiling.

The inner mold for the teapots is contained within two outer pieces that fit together and resemble an old cask. The molds are filled with molten iron, then delicately opened, and imperfections are hammered out. (The molds can be reused if they remain intact; they are easily broken when the iron is poured or when the mold is opened.)

The pots are then oven-fired to remove the carbon and burnished with a lacquer made from pine-tree ash and a mixture of brown rust, vinegar and green tea.

The teapot-makers’ workshops–usually located behind their shops and adjacent to their homes in downtown, urban Morioka, resemble ancient blacksmiths’ quarters, with lots of old-fashioned tools and no modern machinery.

They are a study in browns, with the cask-like moldings piled high on dirt or sand floors.

Miya, whose grandfather founded his store a century ago, has developed a technique to help prevent–or, more accurately, disguise–rusting: He melts rusted Japanese cast-iron items such as tubs and pots, then reuses the iron in his very expensive tea-ceremony kettles. The pots take on an attractive, burnished-red finish that essentially is already rusted so won’t show any more rust.

Some Japanese are willing to shell out thousands of dollars for these items. “People need something to depend on mentally, and they have started getting tired of mass-produced items,” Miya says.

On a recent day, Nobuyoshi Tanabe, 72, and his wife, Ichii, 73, traveled five hours north to Morioka to buy a tea-ceremony pot, known as a chagama, at Maeda’s shop. The couple–who met for the first time on their wedding day in an arranged marriage–were looking for a tea-ceremony pot to commemorate their 55th wedding anniversary next year.

On their 45th anniversary, Nobuyoshi Tanabe drew a family tree that took 15 years to research–but would be gone instantly in a fire, he notes. For their 50th anniversary, they went to a hot spring, inviting many friends and relatives along. When that was over too, nothing remained, he said. “This time,” he says, “I wanted to have something that will remain forever with our name on it.”

The couple settled on a custom-made pot on which Maeda’s shop will put the kanji characters for their names, along with “55th wedding anniversary.” And they settled on a price: about $1,600.

They’ll particularly savor it, Nobuyoshi Tanabe says, because they live in a farmhouse with a traditional wood-burning irori hearth, where they can boil the water and perform the tea ceremony along with their son, daughter-in-law, grandson and his new wife in the house they all share.

“As I became older, I wanted to drink tea longer, and water boiled in Nambu ware is superior–it’s different than in an electric pot,” he says. “I want to boil water over charcoal. I want to really taste the tea.”

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Morihisa Iron Studio, Moriawake

The Ancient Tea Horse Road

For thousands of years, there was an ancient road treaded by human feet and horse hoofs in the mountains of Southwest China, bridging the Chinese hinterland and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Along the unpaved and often rugged road, tea, salt and sugar flowed into Tibet, while horses, cows, furs, musk and other local products came out. The ancient commercial passage, dubbed the “Ancient Tea-Horse Road”, first appeared during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and lasted until the 1960s when Tibetan highways were constructed. Meanwhile, the road also promoted exchanges in culture, religion and ethnic migration, resembling the refulgence of the Silk Road.

The road stretched across more than 4,000 kilometers mainly in Southwest China’s Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Just as the Silk Road, the Ancient Tea-Horse Road disappeared with the dawn of modern civilization, but both routes have played very important roles in the development of China. Different Chinese ethnic cultures, such as the Dai, Yi, Han, Bai, Naxi and Tibetans, have met, fused and developed along the historic road.

The road ran across the Hengduan Mountains and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau — an area of the most complicated geological conditions and most diversified organisms. Besides its cultural and historic value, the road was also highly appreciated by adventurers and scientists.

Tea and horses blazed the way

According to Tibetan classics, people of the Tibetan ethnic group in western Sichuan Province and northwestern Yunnan Province had access to famous types of tea from the Central Plains during the Tang Dynasty. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), people of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces exchanged tea for Tibetan horses.

On one hand, the effects of tea in promoting digestion and eliminating grease from eating too much meat lured many Tibetans. Not only the nobles, but also the general populace took delight in drinking tea. On the other hand, horses were also very important for the Han people. The result was the flourishing of the tea-horse trade.

Pu-erh tea is most favored by the Tibetan people. Since the butter tea made of Pu-erh tea is highly esteemed both in taste and color, it was named after its producing area — Pu-erh County in Yunnan Province, which is one of the cradles of China’s “tea culture”. During the Tang Dynasty, Pu-erh tea was grown in areas flanking the Lancang River. It was described as having a bitter taste at first, then sweet.

In order to preserve Pu-erh tea and to facilitate its trade with merchants travelling the Ancient Tea-Horse Road, a method was developed which led to the steaming of Pu-erh Tea and then compressing it into various shapes – usually a type of bowl shape or a “brick”. This type of tea is known as Tuocha Tea. The word Tuocha sometimes spelled “Tuo Cha”, or “Tuo Tea”, the meaning is block of tea. Tuocha Tea can also be known by different names such as “beeng cha” (or “bing cha” or “ping cha”), and “fang cha”. These names simply refer to the type of shape into which the Tuocha Tea is pressed – eg bing cha is “biscuit shaped” and fang cha is “square shaped”.

During the World War II, when Myanmar fell into the hands of the Japanese, the Yunnan-Myanmar Highway — then China’s only international thoroughfare — was cut off. The Ancient Tea-Horse Road, extending from Lijiang in Yunnan, to Kangding in Xikang, and then to Tibet and even further into India, was revived and became a major trade route. With the opening of the Yunnan-Tibetan and Sichuan-Tibetan highways in the 1960s, the road declined. Some sections of the famous road, however, are still used for transport purposes. Today, the road comes to the fore again with the development of tourism in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, as well as in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

The road passes through subtropical forests and picturesque lakes and turbulent rivers, such as Lancang, Nujiang, Minjiang and Yarlung Zangbo. Heading west from the Hengduan Mountains, one has to cross many peaks — each towering 4,000-5,000 meters above sea level. But tea and horses have blazed a trail despite the challenges posed by mountains and forests. Roads devoted to the tea-horse trade linked ethnic groups living in areas near the roads, making them members of the great Chinese nation.

Six major routes

A Chinese expert researching the Ancient Tea-Horse Road recently found a complete map of the road drawn more than 150 years ago by a French missionary. The map reveals that the road traversed a series of towering mountains, with rivers flowing in between from the south to the north. Roughly speaking, there were six main routes:

Route One:

Begins in Xishuangbanna and Simao, home of Pu-erh tea via Kunming to other Province in China into Beijing.

Route Two:

Begins in Pu-erh (via Simao, Jinhong, Menghai to Daluo) in Yunnan Province into Burma, then from Burma into Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Hongkong.

Route Three:

Begins in Pu-erh via Xiaguan, Lijiang, Zhongdian into Tibet, then from Lhasa into Nepal and India.

Route Four:

Begins in Pu-erh via Jiangcheng in Yunnan into Vietman, then from Vietman into Tibet and Europe.

Route Five:

Begins in Pu-erh via Simao, Lanchang, Menglian in Yunnan into Burma.

Route Six:

Begins in Pu-erh via Mengla in Yunnan into Burma.

Tens of thousands of traveling horses and yaks created a definite path with their hoofs on the once-indiscernible road. Today, although even such traces of the ancient road are fading away, its cultural and historic values remain.