Copyright
A De Rosthorn.

On the tea cultivation in western Ssuch'uan; and, The tea trade with Tibet viâ Tachienlu online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryA De RosthornOn the tea cultivation in western Ssuch'uan; and, The tea trade with Tibet viâ Tachienlu → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


r
o

73

IZ

e



HD
9138

T5R6




a





IZ







ON THE

TEA CULTIVATION

IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

AND THE

Tea Trade with Tibet via Tachienlu.




BY



A. DE ROSTHORN.



WITH SKETCH MAP.



LONDON :
L U Z A C & Co.

(Publishers to the India Office)

46, GUI-: AT RUSSELL STHEKT, W.C.

1895.




ON THE

TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

AND THE

TEA TRADE WITH TIBET

VIA TACHIENLU.



UNIVERSITY




ON THE;

TEA CULTIVATION

IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

AND THE

Tea Trade with Tibet via Tachienlu.



BY



A. DE ROSTHORN.



WITH SKETCH MAP.




LONDON :
L U Z A C & Co.

(Publishers to the India Office)

46, GREAT RUSSELL STREET, W.C.

1895.




CVERSITTJ
&F J



ON THE

TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

AND THE

TEA TRADE WITH TIBET

VIA TACHIENLU.



INTRODUCTORY.

The Tea Trade between China and Tibet, which
j t

takes place at the frontier town of Tachienlu, has
attracted the attention of Foreign travellers since an
early date. It is indeed impossible not to be struck
with the endless caravans of yacks, laden with the
elongated packages called (C bricks", trundling along
over roads which defy description, if one happens to
be travelling in the regions beyond that city, or with
the interminable chain of porters, staggering under
their astonishing loads across two by no means con-
temptible mountain ranges, on the Chinese side of
it. Hence, from M. Hue who sighs u a ce qu'une
civilisation corrompue et sans croyance a su faire
de 1'homme cree a 1'image de Dieu, de I'homme
presque egal aux anges", etc., (L'Empire Chinois, I.
p. 17), down to Mr. W. W. Rockhill, the latest ex-
plorer in these parts (The Land of the Lamas p. 277
& seq.), who takes a more sober view of the matter,



6 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

every traveller has gone into the subject more or less
deeply, and a great deal of valuable information has
been gathered in this manner, especially by the Abbe
Desgodins and Messrs. Baber and Rockhill.

Remarkable, however, as must be in every respect
a trade, which is carried on under such enormous dif-
ficulties and yet apparently with so much success, it
has become of late years a subject of. more than ordi-
nary interest on account of the commercial and poli-
tical questions it involves. It was a pet theme with the
late Mr. Baber, one of the shrewdest observers and
most amiable of writers, that Tibet, preeminently a tea
consuming country, should, by right of contiguity, be
supplied with that staple from Assam, or India gener-
ally. It is true that, latterly, through the enquiries of
Mr. Rockhill and others, the opinion has gained ground,
that the Indian teas are unsuited, or not as well suited
as the Chinese product, for the consumption in Tibet,
owing to their greater astringency and headiness (The
Land of the Lamas, p. 281, Note 2); but, the hope of
being able yet to supersede China in her commercial
supremacy in Tibet, which rests entirely on the tea
trade, and perhaps the knowledge also, that the com-
mercial dependence of that country is a political lever
of no small importance, have no doubt made the open-
ing of Tibet on the Indian side to appear to Englishmen
highly desirable, while to the Chinese they have fur-
nished an excellent pretext, if not a powerful motive,
for refusing their assent to any proposals in that
direction.



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET.



I have before me quite a literature on the subject
under discussion. The figures contained in the various
reports and papers however, though sometimes remark-
ably near the truth, are, mere guesses or fragments
of verbal information. In 1891, when I made the
journey from Tachienlu via T'iench'uan to Yachou, I
had opportunities for observing the more outward and
ostensible features of the trade ; and, continuing to
pursue the subject afterwards, I was able, through
exceptional facilities, to bring together sundry details
not hitherto commonly known, as well as statistics
which, though partly anticipated, are at any rate well
authenticated and entirely trustworthy. These I am
now induced to publish in the hope that, under the
circumstances alluded to, they may prove opportune
and interesting.

A question of purely theoretical interest, which had
occupied me even before I started on my journey, is,
whether the tea plant does or does not grow wild in
Western Ssuch'uan. Various passages occurring in
both native and foreign works (Cooper, Baber, Gill)
had led me to suspect that it does. That shrubs, if
neglected and overgrown, may "run wild" in a soil
and climate so favourable to their growth, is highly
probable. We must also leave out of consideration
those curious groceries mentioned by Mr. Baber at the
end of his paper, the sweet variety (t'ien-ctia) sold
on Mount Omei, and the white tea (pe-cti a or hsiie-ch'a)
also mentioned by Mr. Rockhill (Loc. cit.), the
former, because it is simply a deception practised by



TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN



the priests, who soak the ordinary tea leaves in a
solution of sugar before roasting them ; the latter,
because it is not tea at all, but a kind of lichen of local
occurrence. The question then remains, whether the
ordinary tea plant does or does not belong to the indi-
genous flora of the region referred to. I can only say
that I have seen none growing wild, and that all the en-
quiries I made tend to confirm my observation. It
is true, as will be seen, that the "tea" made up for the
Tibetan market, consists but for the smallest part of
genuine tea leaf ; but the brushwood employed for
admixture, which is probably responsible for the "wild
tea" theory, is composed simply of the leaves and
branches of certain shrubs and trees which, like the
scrub oak, vitex, and others, lend themselves to the
adulteration, and for the existence in a wild state of
the genuine tea plant there seems to be no evidence
whatever.

With regard to the domestic tea shrub, again, it
will be observed later on that its cultivation for seed,
and the art of laying out plantations, are secrets and
monopolies of the inhabitants of Mingshan and Yangan
(Yachou-fu), which districts must therefore be consid-
ered the mother colonies of its cultivation. The best tea
produced in Mingshan-hsien, and indeed in Western
Ssuch'uan, grows on the Meng-shan, a mountain 15 li
(5 miles) to the West of the district city. On the
summit of the mountain stands a Buddhist temple, and
the priests who attend on the idol, are also the guard-
ians of a small plantation said to contain seven shrubs



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET.



only. Tradition has it that these shrubs were planted
during the latter Han dynasty by a pilgrim named Wu
Lichen, who brought the seeds from India (Hsi-yii).
The tea produced by this plantation, amounting
to a few pounds only, is picked annually in the pre-
sence of the territorial officials and forwarded as
tribute to Peking. It is called hsien-ctt a or kung-
ck'a. A tea, known as Meng-ch'a, and reputed very
good, is also grown elsewhere on the mountain, and is
sold to visitors. I have mentioned these curious facts
because they seem to point to an early introduction
of the tea plant from the West, and to confirm the
negative conclusion we have arrived at respecting the
presence of wild tea in Western Ssuch'uan.

It is a popular saying that, in order to get a first
rate cup of tea, you must take "leaves from the Meng-
shan, and water from the Yangtzu". Now, whereas
the Ssuch'uanese have no difficulty in placing the
Meng-shan, they are all adrift about the Yangtzu, and,
preposterous as it may seem, I have often been asked
if I had ever come across a river of that name -in my
travels. Setting aside the much debated question as
to the origin of the name yangtzu and the range of
its applicability, it is obvious that for the purpose
alluded to the ordinary river water can not be meant.
Where then is the famous Yangtzu water to be found?
I take leave to conclude this Introductory chapter
with a reminiscence of my own which may possibly
suggest an answer. Whilst residing at Shanghai I
had occasion to pay a visit to the magistrate of that



10 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

city. I was entertained with tea which I pronounced
excellent, whereupon my host dilated upon the neces-
sity of using good water for its preparation, and
added that he himself used none but Yangtzu water.
I enquired whence he obtained it, and was told that
it was brought down from Chinkiang by the daily
steamer. Some time afterwards, I had almost
forgotten the incident, I visited Chinkiang, and
happened to cross over the bay which divides the
foreign settlement from Golden Island, when I saw
a number of small boats pull out into deep w r ater, the
crews fill their buckets, and return to the shore. I
made enquiry and was informed that there was a
famous spring at the bottom of the stream, which had
been known ever since a time when the bed of the
river was dry land. I forget the name of the spring,
but it was said that a stone tablet with an ancient in-
scription had been standing by its side, and had been
removed to an other spring farther inland, when the
Yangtzu began to wash over the old site. The new
spring has since inherited some of the celebrity of the
old; but those conversant with its history are not
thereby deceived, and continue to draw their water
for tea drinking purposes from " the bed of the
Yangtzu."



JM^X

OF THE r \

UNIVERSITY)

OF



**S






AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET.



GENERAL AND HISTORICAL.



Tea is grown very extensively in Ssuch'uan, and it
appears that, with the exception of the mountainous
regions bordering on Tibet, it is cultivated with equal
success in the North, South, East, and West. No
doubt the hilly configuration, good soil, and mild cli-
mate to which Ssuch'uan owes its general prosperity,
are also the conditions most favourable to the planta-
tion of the tea shrub, the successful cultivation of
which is one of the many resources which make the
vaunted independence and self -sufficiency of the prov-
ince in point of supplies more than an idle boast.

In point of quality, Ssuch'uan tea does not seem to
take a high rank, for none is exported abroad, except
to Tibet, and even in the home market Yunnan
(P'uerh) tea obtains a large sale, being considered
superior to the native produce, and patronised by all
the better classes. After paying an Import duty of
Taels 0.40 (is. 2d.) * per pecul (i 33^^03.) at Hsiichou-
fu, and the same at Chungking, [the Yunnan article
sells at the latter place for about Taels 27 (943. 6d.)



* The Tael is calculated as equivalent to 1500 cash, and
to 35. 6d. The pecul = : 100 catties = 133! English fos.
The duty according to tariff is Taels 0.70 per load (140
catties), but a discount of 20 per cent being made, it is
actually only Taels 0.56 per load or 0.40 per pecul. The
wholesale price is Taels 38 per load or about Taels 27 per
pecul.



12 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

per pecul (say 8Jd. per Tb.), while the best native leaf,
produced in Nanch'uan, t costs only 320 cash a catty
(say 6d. per tb.). These figures are instructive when
compared with the price of the " brick tea" prepared
for the Tibetan market. It is estimated that Yunnan
tea is imported to the extent of about 1400 peculs
(186,666 Tbs.), J but a certain quantity also finds its
way into Western Ssuch'uan by the Chiench'ang route
which comes out at Yachou-fu.

The quantity of tea produced annually in Ssuch'uan
is a question more of theoretical interest perhaps than
of practical value. Accurate statistics are furnished
by the provincial topography, but that useful and vo-
luminous compendium has unfortunately not been re-
vised since the year 1815, and its figures are therefore
no longer true. A few notices respecting the earlier
history of the tea trade and administration may be,
however, not without interest and are extracted here-
under.

Tea began to be taxed during the T'ang dynasty, a



f The best Nanch'uan tea, called pe-hao, costs 320 cash a
. catty (wholesale) ; the second best, called mao-chien, costs
200 cash a catty. There are cheaper kinds ranging down to
as low as 40 cash a catty, which is the price paid for the so
called lao-ken, made up of twigs and refuse. We shall come
across that term again later on.

% 1000 loads (tan) of 32 barrels (fung) each. A barrel
contains 7 cakes (yuan), weighing 10 ounces. A load is
therefore equivalent to 140 catties.



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET. 13



tithe of 10 per cent on the production, payable in
kind, being levied from the year 780. During the
Sung the trade was made illegal, and in three provinces
only (among them Ssuch'uan) it continued lawful
within the limits of the province. In 1074 the system
of bartering tea for Tibetan horses on government
account was begun in Shan-hsi, and this is the earliest
mention of the tea trade with Tibet. This trade,
however, remained a government monopoly, and
public bazaars were now established in all the more
important tea districts for the better control of sales
and the collection of the tithe. In order to obviate
the necessary but inconvenient fluctuations of the col-
lection, a new system was subsequently devised, the
yield estimated, the plantations rated, and the tithe
fixed accordingly. But this manner of assessment
was so arbitrary, so open to abuse, and the tax became
so burdensome that a reform became necessary before
long. It was undertaken in 1127, when a system of
permits, to accompany and protect the goods en route,
was introduced, and clandestine conveyance more ef-
ficiently checked. This was the beginning of the per-
mit system, which has remained in force ever since.
As early as the Ming dynasty we read about a coarse
kind of tea, known as chien-tao ts'u-ctia, produced in
Tiao-men (now T'iench'uan-chou) and other places,
and which none but the Hsi-fan used. The Hsi-fan
are the Tibetans of to-day. They used to bring their
horses from Ch'angho-hsi (now Tachienlu) to Aichou-
wei (now Yachou-fu), where they exchanged them for



14 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'lJAN



tea, a colt fetching 70 catties, the best horse 120
catties. During Yunglo (1403 to 1425) the purchase
of horses was discontinued in Ssuch'uan, but was still
carried on in Shanhsi whither the tea surrendered to
the government was transported. The long transport,
however, caused much of the tea to arrive in bad con-
dition, and an order was therefore issued to levy only
one third of the quantity due in kind, and to accept
payment in money for the other two thirds. This is the
first instance of cash payments of tea duties. In
1569, finally, all tea duties of the province were made
payable in silver. So far, when we have spoken of tea
duties, the original tax or tithe on the production was
always understood. When the government monopoly
was abolished, and the tea trade thrown open to mer-
chants, a tea duty (shui) was levied in addition to the
original tithe (k'o), and at the beginning of the present
dynasty Taels 45,942 were collected annually on ac-
count of the former, and Taels 13,128 on account of
the latter. In 1696 sanction was obtained for making
Tachienlu the market where Tibetans accredited by the
Talai-lama were allowed to carry on trade, and to make
their purchases of tea. In 1719 Lit' } ang and Pat' ang
were admitted to the same privilege. In 1743 the
system of taxation was again revised, the permit (yin)
fixed at 100 catties (plus an allowance for waste of 14
per cent) and the tea tax (k } o) raised to Taels 0.125
for every permit. The number of permits was success-
ively increased, a reserve of 5000 blank permits de-
posited with the Governor General, and in 1815, when



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET. 15



the Topography breaks off, the production and distri-
bution stood as follows :

The annual issue of permits was fixed at 139,354,
of which 92,327 were export permits (pien yin), 31,120
border permits (t'u yin), and 15,907 inland permits
(fu yin). The export permits were again distributed
as follows, viz., 53,004 permits filled up by the Yangan,
Jung-ching and Mingshan districts, and 20,300 per-
mits filled up in Ch'iung-chou : in all 73,304 permits
were for export via Tachienlu ; and 16,346 permits,
filled up by various districts, were for export via
Sungp'an, while 2,677 more were nominally issued for
Sungp'an, but were withheld and disposed of inland.
The border permits were for the supply of the more
proximate native principalities (t'u ssuj on this side
of the two frontier towns named, and the inland per-
mits were, as their name indicates, for the internal
trade.

Each permit w r as subject to four kinds of charges,
viz., (a) the original tithe (k'o) Taels 0.125 per per-
mit of every description ; ( b ) the tea duty (shut)
Taels 0.472 for export permits, Taels 0.361 for border
permits, and Taels 0.250 for inland permits ; (c) a
surplus charge (hsien-yu) for administration expenses,
Taels 0.124 for export permits, Taels o.m for border
permits, and Taels 0.098 for inland permits; and (d)
a fee (ch } ie-kuo) for barrier expenses, Taels 0.142 for
export permits, if filled up by the Yangan, Jungching
or Mingshan districts, and Taels 0.186, if filled up by
Ch'iung-chou, for Tachienlu ; Taels o.ioo, if for Sung-



I 6 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

p'an, and Taels 0.142, if Sungp'an permits disposed of
internally; Taels 0.122 for border permits, and Taels
o.i 20 for inland permits.

The Revenue in 1815 was therefore as under:

Export permits.

T 92,327 @ o- I2 5 Taels IJ > 540- 875

D @ 0.472 43,578.344

S C @ 0.124 11,448.548

53,[email protected] 0.142 | Tachienlu

20,300 @ o.i86J 3,775- 8o

16,346 @ o.ioo-) o r ., 1,634.600



, ~ungp
2,677 @ 0.142 J 3 8o - I 34

Taels 79,884.869

Border permits.

T 31,120 @ 0.125 Taels 3,890.000

D @ 0.361 11,234.320

S C @ o.i 1 1 3,454.320

F @ 0.122 ,, 3,796.640

Taels 22,375.280

Inland permits.

T 15.907 @ 0.125 Taels i,9 88 -375

D @ 0.250- 3,976.750

S C @ 0.098 1,558.886

F @ 0.120 ,, 1,908.840

Taels 9,432.851
Total Tea Revenue (1815) Taels 111,693.000



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET. 17






The distribution of tea showed the following per-
centages : Export 66, Border 22, Inland 12, while
from a revenue point of view the export trade contrib-
uted 72 per cent, the supply of native principalities 20
per cent., and the home trade only 8 per cent, of the
total collection. Quantitatively, Tachienlu participated
with 79 per cent, Sungp'an with 21 per cent, in the
export trade ; the former with 5j per cent, the latter
with 14 per cent, in the whole tea trade of the prov-
ince. Tachienlu contributed Taels 64,154.552, Sung-
p'an Taels 15,730.317, to the above revenue. In the
following the export trade via Tachienlu w r ill occupy
us alone.



ADMINISTRATION AND REVENUE.

When compared with the foregoing statistics, and
considering that three quarters of a century have
elapsed since they were made, the figures for the
present tea trade at Tachienlu, and for the revenue
now collected, show a great, but not an abnormal
development.

The Tea and Salt Commissioner (yen-cha tao)
resident at Ch'engtu is the head of the administration
under the Governor General. The permits, under
which the trade is carried on, are issued annually by
the Board of Revenue in Peking, and are returned to
it at the end of the year. The number of permits
allotted to Tachienlu for export North and West is



l8 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN

108,000. After receiving the impression of the Gov-
ernor General's seal, they are transmitted by the Tea
Commissioner to the Sub-prefect (fing, also styled
chiinltang fu, because in charge of the Commissar-
iat), who is the highest civil officer at Tachienlu.
The latter is assisted by two special Deputies (wei-
yuan}, and the three officers are jointly responsible
for the collection of the revenue. The permits are
given out in the second Chinese moon, and called in
in the tenth moon, and any deficiency then existing
must be made good, the blank permits being surren-
dered and cancelled like those filled up. The dues
and duties payable on each permit aggregate Taels
i.io, and the revenue accruing to the central govern-
ment from the tea trade at Tachienlu is therefore
Taels 118,800 per annum. For this sum the Tea
Commissioner is supposed to be accountable to the
Board of Revenue.

Beside the above regular or ordinary permits (yin or
cheng-yin), special permits (p'iao) are issued by the
Tea Commissioner. They are intended to provide
against the contingency of a deficit ; but, since the re-
gular permits are always entirely taken up, the dues
collected on these special permits have really become
a perquisite of the Tea Commissioner. One special
permit is issued for every ten regular ones, that is,
10,800 per annum. They cover the same quantity
of tea, but the dues and duties amount to only Taels
0.80 a piece, and they realise therefore Taels 8.640
per annum.



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET. IQ



Similarly 5,000 more permits (en-p ' iao) are issued
annually by the Sub-prefect, to ensure himself against
loss, and 3,000 for the benefit of the two Deputies.
These permits pay at the same rate as the last, and
realise Taels 6,400 per annum.

The total number of permits issued every year, and
the actual collection of dues and duties on tea at
Tachienlu is as under :

OP 108,000 @ 1. 10 Taels 118,800

S P 10,800 @ 0.80 8,640

5,000 @ 0.80 ,, 4,000

3,000 @ 0.80 2,400






126,800 Taels 133,840



As a set off against the above facts it should be
mentioned that the central government allows only
the modest sum of Taels 840 per annum for cost of
the tea administration at Tachienlu. This sum pro-
vides for salaries of Taels 300 a year to each of the
two deputies, and of Taels 60 a year each to four
clerks, while the maintenance of a dozen or so of
servants and runners found by the Sub-prefect, and
other incidental expenses in connection with the tea
office are not provided for.



20 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN



DISTRIBUTION OF PERMITS.

The Sub-prefect of Tachienlu receives applications
for permits from the Magistrates of the five districts
which enjoy the privilege of supplying' the tea for the
Tibetan market. In his turn the Magistrate of each
district opens a list of applicants for tea permits in the
second moon every year. In order to obtain these,
merchants must find sureties amongst the respectable
and substantial residents of the district ; and, as the
trade is a highly profitable one, and competition
therefore keen, a considerable outlay is usually con-
nected, in the first place^ with the finding of the
sureties, and, in the next, with getting them accepted.
When the matter has been satisfactorily arranged,
the successful applicants are furnished by the Magis-
trate with documents on presentation of which the
permits are issued by the Sub-prefect of Tachienlu.
The permits are transferable, and do sometimes become
an article of trade in themselves ; but the original
owner remains responsible for the dues payable on
them. All tea transported to Tachienlu must be
accompanied by permits, and the latter are inspected
both at Luting-ch'iao and at the city gates of Ta-
chienlu. But the duties are paid only after sale, when
the permits also are surrendered.

The distribution of the permits amongst the five
privileged districts is according to the following fixed
ratio :



AND THE TEA TRADE WITH TIBET. 21

Ch'iung-chou 27,000

Mingshan-hsien 8,000

T'iench'uan-chou 23,000

Yangan-hsien 27,000

Jungching-hsien 23,000

Total, regular permits 108,000

The distribution of the special permits is not bound
by any rule.



Fa^V,



PRODUCTION.



Each permit covers five packages (pao). The
packages being not exactly uniform, the quantity of
tea annually exported via Tachienlu is a matter for
nice calculation. We will here anticipate, what will
be made apparent hereafter, that the 126,800 permits
annually issued represent peculs 108^80.

The five districts enumerated are not capable of
producing the entire quantity locally, and three more
districts are therefore allowed to participate in the
supply of the raw material, viz. Ch'ingch'i-hsien,
Omei-hsien, and Hungya-hsien. The share taken by
each district in the production of tea for the Tachienlu
market is in round figures as follows :



^>>x
UNIVERSITY)

- ^S



22 TEA CULTIVATION IN WESTERN SSUCH'UAN



Ch'iung-chou


peculs


19,000


Mingshan


j)


1 3

Online LibraryA De RosthornOn the tea cultivation in western Ssuch'uan; and, The tea trade with Tibet viâ Tachienlu → online text (page 1 of 3)