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  • Jeff Fuchs

Tea Horse Road Chronicles - Tenzin

Legend, guardian of caravans, and hunter of ‘tea thieves’, Tenzin.

We had heard of this legend but worried we wouldn’t track him down upon the route. Worried that we would not get time nor access to listen and take in an incredibly unique perspective of the days of trade along the Tea Horse Road. There was the added draw of Tenzin becoming a kind of idol in our team’s collective mind. Tenzin had acted as a kind of headman of caravans that were run by a monastery, and it was within his mandate to protect the sacred commodities of tea, salt, wool, copper, and mules...and punish those who thieved. In such a way he became known - by his reputation for both protecting and punishing. We found him living simply in between the two great snow passes of Shar and Nup Gong La (East and West Gate Passes respectively) deep within Tibet along a stretch of the trade route that cut through the Nyenchen Tanghla Mountains, a sub-range of the greater Transhimalaya system. Sitting with tea outside, Tenzin was composed, regretful at times, and utterly graceful. He worked his mala beads continuously during our hours with him. He only asked that we remember him as someone who did his job along the route. He regretted some of what he had to do in the name of protecting the caravans on their journeys through the sky. I remember him as grace personified.


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