For thousands of years, only humans and horses treaded the mountains of Southwest China as they followed an ancient pathway through the Chinese hinterlands and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Along the unpaved and rugged pathway that was formed, commodities like tea, salt and sugar flowed into Tibet. Meanwhile, horses, cows, furs, musk and other local products made their way to the outside world. The road was called the tea-horse ancient road, and it stretched across more than 4,000 kilometers, mainly through Southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
The ancient commercial passage first appeared during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It also experienced the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties - or a period of more than 1,200 years. The road promoted exchanges in culture and religion, and saw ethnic migration that closely resembled what was experienced on the well-known Silk Road.