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Tibetan Scholar Maps Ancient Commercial Routes

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/09/28; September 28, 2002.]

[Xinhua is an official news agency of the PRC]

GUIYANG, Sept. 28, 2002 (Xinhuanet) -- After years of field research, a noted Chinese Tibetan scholar has drawn up a map of five commercial routes known as the Cha Ma Ancient Road, traveled by caravans decades ago across western China's Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansuand Qinghai provinces, and Tibet to reach some southern Asian countries.

At a seminar held recently in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, Jambian Gyamco, a research fellow at theChinese Academy of Social Science, described these routes as corridors for cultural and economic exchanges between Tibet and people of the Han nationality in southern China.

The ancient road got the name of "Cha Ma," which means "tea horse" in Chinese, because traders used to transport tea and sugaron horseback from Yunnan, Sichuan and other southwest provinces toTibet in exchange for a new horse.

The routes were said to be opened during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and became prosperous in the Second World War period. The first two were previously widely known while three have been made public recently.

The first route was discovered by six young Chinese scientists in 1990 when they ventured into an unknown valley covered with dense forest at the precipitous Hengduan Mountain. Beginning from the Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna, the route traverses several counties and prefectures, passing through Tibet and extending in to India, Nepal and other south Asian countries.

The second route begins with Ya'an in Sichuan Province, traverses Lijiang and Deqen in Yunnan Province, Lhasa of Tibet andends in Nepal.

The third route, heretofore unknown, originates from Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, runs through the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qamdo and arrives in Lhasa.Xining does not produce tea but used to serve as a distributing center for shipments coming from the southern part of the country.

The fourth one starts from the Hexi Corridor in northwest China's Gansu Province, winds through Dunhuang, Mount Tanggula and endsat Lhasa.

The fifth route begins in Kashi in southern Xinjiang, via NgariPrefecture of Tibet to reach India and Nepal.

"This was an extension of the ancient Silk Road," Jambian Gyamco said. "But though it can directly reach India, Nepal and some other southern Asian countries, the route had not been visited by many caravans because the region has thin air and a frigid climate."

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