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Simao District Culture

Simao District (Chinese: 思茅区; pinyin: Sīmáo Qū; formerly known as Cuiyun District) is a district under the jurisdiction of Pu'er Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. It is the seat of Pu'er Prefecture. Formerly both Simao and the surrounding region of Pu'er prefecture played a major role in the historic tea horse trade between Yunnan, Tibet and India, with Simao acting as the southern terminus or starting point for the transport of tea by mule caravan north to Dali, Lijiang and Lhasa. Tea remains a central crop and product of the region. In 2007, the city of Simao (思茅市) changed its name to Puer city (普洱市). By doing so, it has had an effect the size of the official Pu’er (普洱) tea production area.


The Tea Horse Road Culture

Simao district is the starting point of the tea horse road - the southern silk- road in the history, which is one of the three customs towns in Yunnan Province. The Tea Horse Road or chamadao (simplified Chinese: 茶马道; traditional Chinese: 茶馬道), now generally referred to as the Ancient Tea Horse Road or chama gudao (simplified Chinese: 茶马古道; traditional Chinese: 茶馬古道) was a network of caravan paths winding through the mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou in Southwest China.[1] It is also sometimes referred to as the Southern Silk Road. The route extended to Bengal in the Indian subcontinent. One of the longest and most dramatic trade routes of the ancient world, the Tea Horse Road carried a crucial exchange for 13 centuries between China and Tibet. China needed war horses to protect its northern frontier and Tibet could supply them. When the Tibetans discovered tea in the 7th century, it became a staple of their diet, but its origins are in southwest China, and they had to trade for it.

As one of the longest and most dramatic trade routes of the ancient world, the Tea Horse Road carried a crucial exchange for 13 centuries between China and Tibet. China needed war horses to protect its northern frontier and Tibet could supply them. When the Tibetans discovered tea in the 7th century, it became a staple of their diet, but its origins are in southwest China, and they had to trade for it.The result was a network of trails covering more than 3,000 kilometers through forests, gorges and high passes onto the Himalayan plateaus, traversed by horse, mule and yak caravans, and human porters. It linked cultures, economies and political ambitions, and lasted until the middle of the 20th century.

Re-tracing the many branches of the Road, photographer and writer Michael Freeman spent two years compiling this remarkable visual record, from the tea-mountains of southern Yunnan and Sichuan to Tibet and beyond. Collaborating on this fascinating account, ethno-ecologist Selena Ahmed's description of tea and bio-cultural diversity in the region draws on her original doctoral research.

China's cultural heritage authorities are thus finally taking the preservation of the cultures associated with the route seriously. Yet the recognition that the old tea road warrants lags far behind its conceptual development within the broader realm of public discourse. Indeed, it may even be argued that the 'cultural heritage lag', and its recent corrective in the form of 'World Heritage frenzy',[10] is partly a response to the economic and tourist potential that the tea road offers. The production, transportation and consumption of tea—Pu'er tea in this case—is itself a tangible item which has generated over time a series of associated social and cultural practices that unites the disparate peoples of Yunnan. Thus, the tea road and tea fit comfortably into the marketing vision of Yunnan as a 'cultural whole' and feature in all the counties, towns and cities that are touched on by them as a key element of provincial 'branding'.


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