Sunday, January 27, 2013

Trekking for Tea

China's Ancient Tea Horse Road –Text by Andrew Forbes, Photographs by David Henley

2782 KB / 91 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: Not really *
4 Stars

If you are a tea drinker, and interested in the history of tea, this might be an utterly fascinating book. I am neither a tea drinker, nor particularly fascinated by the history of tea, and it was merely interesting.

However, I am fascinated by the history of China, and bought this book for my Kindle. Big mistrake.

There are several photos and copies of paintings in this book that were too small to be enjoyed on my Kindle, and the captions below almost unreadable. And, because I have last year's Kindle, and not the Kindle Fire, they were all in black and white. (They may be black and white in the hard copy, I don't know.)

And the formatting was a tad off putting. there were line breaks where there should have been none, thereby creating paragraphs where there should have been none. Irritating, not major. Okay, major enough I'm grousing about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the text (except for the formatting issues) and think I would have enjoyed the photos had I been able to properly see them. The map was totally useless. Now, what I would have loved to have read a hard copy book, with a fold-out map (I love maps. One can never have too many maps.) and been able to follow along as I read the text, and viewed the pictures. Alas, the only map was at the very beginning and too small hard to read.

The Ancient China Tea Horse Road was a caravan route, actually several that merged along the way, from China to Lhasa, Tibet, and then on across Tibet and down into Burma, India and other countries. It was actually in use until the Chinese claimed their ancient right to Tibet (Kublai Khan's era, I think). And is, once again, in use, however, there is now a road, instead of a trail.

Porters, and sometimes mules, carried teas, and other trade goods, depending on where one was along the way across high and treacherous trails up the Himalaya Mountains. This route was especially important during WWII and when the Communists were fighting Chiang Kai-Shek. There are actual photos of some of the porters, and an interview in this book. That, alone, made it worth the read. I just wish the photos had been larger. And the map usable.

If you plan a trip to China, or Southeast Asia, read this book. If at all possible, find a hard copy of it. Get a map of China, and follow along, I think you'll find it of interest. 

*NOTE: I was given a Kindle Fire for my birthday, and I have to say that, on the fire, the book is great.  The illustrations are vivid, and the formatting perfect.

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