If you want to get an idea of the history and customs of certain countries (especially India and China) during certain periods of time you could do a lot worse than to read some of the many books about tea that have been written over the years. I’ve reviewed many of these books in these very pages and as more keep turning up I can’t help but being amazed at their sheer numbers.
The latest such tome I’ve run across is one with the snappy title, On the Tea Cultivation in Western Ssŭch’uan: and, The Tea Trade With Tibet viâ Tachienlu. It was written by one A. De Rosthorn and published in 1895. Like several of the works I’ve run across lately it’s a brief one and probably doesn’t even merit being described as a book. But it’s an interesting look at tea production and trade in Tibet and the western part of China known as Sichuan, one that many of us here in the West may know better as Szechuan.
From his introduction, in which he presents the spectacle of “endless caravans of yacks, laden with the elongated package called ‘bricks’, trundling along over roads which defy description”, Rosthorn moves on to a General and Historical section. He notes that tea was grown “extensively” in the province and with equal success in “the North, South, East, and West”, but points out that it wasn’t of particularly high quality and not much it was exported, except to Tibet.
The author also takes a look at the size of the tea market and trade in the region, probably in more detail than a lot of modern-day readers will want to know about. Next up is a section on Administration and Revenue, which delves even more deeply into this sort of thing. While one tends to skim over the drier bits of these sections, there are plenty of interesting tidbits to liven things up, including the revelation that the region had an official known as the Tea and Salt Commissioner (which sounds like great work if you can get it).
From there it’s on to sections on Production, Manufacture, Transport and Sale and then things wrap up a mere forty pages later with a Summary and a Conclusion. Read this bite-sized gem for free in all the usual places, including this one.
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