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  • Jeff Fuchs

Tea Horse Road Chronicles, Part 4, The Ebb

Tea Horse Road Chronicles Part 4.

Continuing with an homage and tribute to spaces, moments, and sparks in the memory palace of time spent along the great trade route through the sky.

So much vibrated with life along the Tea Horse Road, and so much depended upon its continuous flow. For 1300 years life, goods, ideas, DNA, and inspiration continued to be caravanned in and onto the Tibetan Plateau and this was in part due to need, which in turn inspired relative peace and harmony along the route. Buddhism needed trade and ideas as much as the market centres did, and so while the odd bit of thieving went on, it was generally tolerated only if greed was kept in check.

Isolated communities, seasonal nomadic camps and market capitals alike all thrived and had much invested in the continued teams of mule, yak, and man. The ebb and loss of overland trade eroded small economies and took away some of unpredictable majesty of the journeys by foot.

An abandoned village near Tenda in eastern Tibet lies at a crucible of a valley, a river, and a strand of the Tea Horse Road (arching left out of the screen). Such villages dried up when the bustling trade began to ebb. Within such villages, host homes, called netsang, or hosts called Nemo, would provide grazing, warmth and supplies in exchange for a much needed economic boost of commodities. With overland trade ebbing, so too did the heartbeat of many communities. We passed by this little memory of buildings on our way to the Shar Gong La Pass (Eastern Gate Pass). Our team of Nomè, Sonam, Norbu and I took a tea break looking down at the little reference point of a community that once was. Our tea was a powerful Sheng Puerh and it seemed to enhance all that the senses took in in those brief minutes. This village was a momentary and very clear reminder of what the trade route once meant, and what its absence inevitably symbolized.


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