Princess Wencheng’s Marriage to Xizang:Tea Fragrance on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau

2023-September-14 16:21 By:

Butter is necessary to provide energy to those finishing meditation with a weak body. Monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty described the use of butter in The Great Tang Records on the Western Regions. By boiling the sweet butter and mellow brick tea with salt, an essential food is prepared on the dining tables of the plateau – the butter tea.

The Tibetan butter tea was created by mixing the tea from the hinterland during the Tang Dynasty and the butter from Xizang, which best epitomizes the cultural and people-to-people exchanges between Han and Tibetans. In 641 A.D., Emperor Taizong of Tang promised to marry his royal daughter, Princess Wencheng, to Songtsen Gampo, the leader of Tubo Kingdom. The princess brought a large amount of dowry goods to Xizang, such as food, tea, medical books and equipment, among other items.

During the Tang Dynasty, tea had already become very popular. there were numerous works on tea and tea boiling such as The Classic of Tea. Princess Wencheng and her entourages brought advanced production and lifestyles from the Central Plains to Xizang. As Tibetan history books recorded, when monks of the Tang Dynasty preached sutras in Xizang, they had to drink tea to meditate, supplement vitamins and promote digestion. Thus, the temples in Xizang and the lifestyle of local monks were influenced.

Apart from monks, tea is also indispensable to Tibetan lay people. Tea eliminates the adverse effects of high-protein, high-calorie food, so it is often said that “the grease of meat and the energy of staple food cannot be fully digested without tea”. On the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, people didn’t eat vegetables in the past, they only ate beef and mutton. Tea is of great significance in mitigating the grease and meat fat. In this sense, tea is vitally essential to them. Later in history, tea trade became more and more popular, and eventually the tea-for-horse trade was formed.

Princess Wencheng’s marriage resulted in an official road at the very beginning, which later evolved into Tang-Tubo Road. There is personnel exchanges almost every year. The road has become an important channel of exchange between Han and Tibetans. This channel later evolved into the Tea-Horse Trade Route. In fact, the items traded along the route went far beyond tea and silk, with porcelain and other living utensils included as well. As nobody can drink tea without teacups, porcelain was naturally introduced into Xizang, making the trade along the route all-inclusive. Initial exchange between the two sides was started by Princess Wencheng. Later, all kinds of skills were brought to Xizang, changing the lifestyle of locals greatly and making their life much better. This is why Princess Wencheng is still remembered to this day.

Editor: WRX
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