Sunday, Jul 21 2019
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Today Siberia is a vast region of bustling metropolises and magnificent landscapes'
A. J. Haywood

New tourist route follows The Great Tea Road

By The Siberian Times reporter
16 July 2015

Special train - the Eurasian Star - will reopen exotic and historic trail linking China, Mogolia and Russia.

Hopes are for the Great Tea Train to be operating for tourists by next year and become a great Bucket List must-do for tea drinkers everywhere. Picture: Museum of Tea in Erlyan

The Great Tea Road has been called the longest land trade route in the history of mankind, and now a key section of it will be honoured as a tourist route seeking to tap the world's two billion tea drinkers. 

Starting from the Great Wall of China, it once wove its way to Europe via Mongolia and Russia.

At the recent BRICS summit, President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorzh agreed to the new tourist route in a joint co-operation deal which will highlight the tea trade route from Beijing, across Mongolia, to the Siberian cities of Chita, Ulan-Ude and finally Irkutsk, a distance of more than 3,000 km.

Hopes are for the Great Tea Train to be operating for tourists by next year and become a great Bucket List must-do for tea drinkers everywhere. Potentially the train could stop at each city for two days on its odyssey through the historical route by which tea reached Russia and Europe in centuries gone by. 

'The project is now at the stage of development and approval,' said Trans-Baikal region senior official Natalia Soldatova. 'It is considered by Russian regions and the department of Russian Railways for tours.'

Map of the Great Tea Road

Starting from the Great Wall of China, it once wove its way to Europe via Mongolia and Russia. Picture: CRIEnglish.com

The train will pass along the Trans-Siberian route, but it is hoped for investment of at least one billion roubles - some $17.5 million. 

It is hoped another stop on the route will be at Naushki, which is some 30km from the ancient merchant town of Kyakhta, and the closest rail stop to this intriguing outpost. 

Its name that may not trip off the tongue now, but it was world famous in previous centuries for its role in trading tea - but many other commodities too - between China and Russia. 

Founded by Serb, Savva Raguzinsky, as a trading point with the Qing Empire in 1728, it had close ties to its Chinese counterpart, Maimaicheng, and boasted a 19th century tea bourse.

The two towns even developed their own language, for use in trade and known as Kyakhta Russian-Chinese Pidgin, enabling them to barter goods. 

At the time,  as Wikipedia relates, 'the Russians sold furs, textiles, clothing, hides, leather, hardware and cattle, while the Chinese sold silk, cotton stuffs, teas, fruits, porcelain, rice, candles, rhubarb, ginger and musk.

Great Tea Road Great Tea Road

Box used to transport the tea from China, and a Tea Caravan. Pictures: Kungur City Museum

'Much of the tea is said to have come from Yangloudong, a major centre of tea production and trade near today's Chibi City, Hubei'.

By the mid-19th century tea accounted for 90 per cent of imported goods on this trading route, brought by camel caravans crossing Mongolia.

An early visitor in 1782 was Sir Samuel Bentham, a noted English mechanical engineer, naval architect and adventurer, and brother of philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In a varied life, Sir Samuel variously was put in charge of Prince Potemkin's workshops and factories,  decorated for his role in a victorious battle against the Turks, and appointed commander of a battalion of 1,000 men in Siberia. 

He took back to the West the Chinese boat designs he had seen deployed on Siberia's great rivers. Crossing from Kyakhta he noted that he was treated  'with the greatest politeness which a stranger can meet with in any country whatever'.

A later Western traveller, Charles Wenyon, observed in 1893 that 'the best tea produced in China goes to Russia'. Much of it then went further west, to Europe. 

The Great Tea Road

The tea route in Russia received 'bricks' of compressed tea from camel caravans at Kyakhta - which came via Mongolia from the Great Wall of China gate at Kalgan and beyond. Picture: Vkontakte

The tea route in Russia received 'bricks' of compressed tea from camel caravans at Kyakhta - which came via Mongolia from the Great Wall of China gate at Kalgan and beyond.

The cargo was then moved across Lake Baikal and  through towns and cities including Irkutsk, Yenisysk, Tomsk, Kainsk, Tara, Tobolsk, Tyumen, Yekaterinburg, Kungar, Perm and Kazan to Moscow and points west.

The coming of the Trans-Siberian railway ended the tea caravans, yet more than a century later, interest is now rekindled in the Great Tea Road. Many towns on this historic road have buildings and museum collections relating to this earlier era.

There is now a yearning to honour this trading history and the achievements of previous generations. In 2010, as a mark of this respect for the past, the first symbolic tea caravan in 100 or so years arrived in Kyakhta.

Two years later, 300 tourists from China on a train following the Great Tea Road, for the first time, and a motor rally also followed the route. 

Comments (1)

I hope you're not making the camels above become unemployed? They'll go into the benefit office & the assistant or counter staff will say, "have you any children, wife to support"? And the camel/s will say, "No, but as you can see, we have a lot of burdens on our back/s". & any-ways, "we can't live on fresh air by itself or even on "Tea" by itself.
We need hard "Currency" and psst, US dollars rather than "Roubles", please. Mum's the word.
Jaker, Dundalk
16/07/2015 22:05
2
0
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


News

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR70.79USD62.87GBP78.77Other...