As there there were no ships and transport planes, the only possible means of transportation was via the horses' back. This gave rise to what is called the horse gang (馬幫) whose members were actively involved in the delivery of puerh tea to where it was needed. The horse gang was really a group of dedicated people who worked diligently and traveled thousand of kilometers to ensure that the tea reached its destination. Now you would appreciate why puerh tea had such unusual packaging, seven in a pile and 12 piles in a rectangular basket and each piece weighs 357g. All were made necessary so that the horses would survive the tedious journey.
In a typical tea expedition, hundreds of horses were employed to transport puerh tea across rugged terrain and mountainous regions from Puerh city to the north (Tibet) and to the south (Loas and Burma). Apart from horses, donkeys were also employed to carry the tea as donkeys were stronger, they ate less and complaint little. With so many animals involved in the process, workers were needed to supervise and take charge of the flock and the goods.
This journey normally took several months to a year before the job was done. Members of the horse gang had to endure unimaginable hardships and difficulties through out the journey. Not only they had to leave their love ones, they had to deal with the harsh weather conditions, the attack from wild animals and the ruthless robbers and also the corrupt officials that demanded bribes before letting the group to pass the border. It won't be surprise to know that some might not even survived the harsh journey and returned home safely.
|The journey of the horse gang|
|Horses were used to carry the tea to its destinations|
|The inn where the group stayed overnight|
|Outside the inn where the horse gang rested|
|Simple furniture inside the inn|
|Items used by the horse gang on display|
|The bed for the leader|
|A secret compartment under the mattress|
|Some of the things used by the leader|
|He drank tea from this funny utensil|
|Various Gods to pray for a safe journey|
Recently in the early 2000s, some people were trying to repeat this remarkable tea expedition of the horse gangs. They recruited many tea traders and employed hundreds of horses to carry the tea through this ancient route. Guess what happened, only 2 horses survived the harsh journey and reached the destination.
Today when we sip our cups of fragrant puerh tea in the comfort of our homes, just remember its rich history and the people that contributed to its success.
|7 pieces of puerh cakes in a bundle|
|One Piece (Zhi) contains 12 bundles|