The Virtual Shopper
Helping You To Find Your Treasure On The Ancient Tea Horse Road
Trading Along the Ancient Tea Horse Road
The quality of diversity of excellent craftsmanship found along the Ancient Tea Horse Road reflects the constant movement of merchants along this route for more than a millennia. Traders, eager to supplement their enormous cargos of tea being transported from southern China to the farthest reaches of Tibet, were always on the lookout for treasures of art, textiles, silk embroidery, clay and porcelain tea-ware, jewelry and fine silversmithing that they could acquire and then trade for horses in Tibet to bring back to China. The strong and sure-footed Tibetan horses were in high demand to supply the armies fending off the Mongol invaders, and the Tibetans regarded tea from China as a precious commodity. The teas from southern Yunnan (Pu'er) and Sichuan were, and still are, the finest teas in the world.
What has changed is that modern roads are now interspersed with the many still existing trails and paths that are only passable on foot or a horse. There are more than twenty-six distinct cultures that still live along this ancient route and more than ever the craftsmen envision, design and create treasurers using centuries-old techniques. Often these treasures are not traded outside their home region.
There are many "off the beaten path" villages and towns where beautiful treasures are made, using centuries-old skills and then transported to more populous areas to sell.
For eight years I have lived in this region and frequently travel from the southern reaches of China's Yunnan province, on the borders with Nepal, Myanmar, Tibet, Laos and Vietnam into the western reaches of Sichuan Province and its borders with the more northern areas of Tibet.
I am fascinated with the diversity of the cultures that still live in these regions and the languages, dress, art, music, social customs and food that sets them apart from each other and the rest of the world. I am always looking for unusual items that can rarely be found in the US and have a passion for showcasing the artists that create them and providing them access and opportunity for them to engage with potential clients who can't come to this region and share in the adventure.
On this site, you will find several collections of unique crafts and fine arts that, in collaboration with the artists and artisans, are made available to you for examination and possibly purchase. All of the items in these collections are one-of-a-kind and created by the artists that I will introduce you to. I hope that you will spend some time poking around and will also take a few minutes to read a few of the Cultural Insights blogs that can be found on this site. If you would like to subscribe to receive free Cultural Insights and notices of when I plan to visit a specific region - sign up at the bottom of any page. You can unsubscribe at any time.