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AGE: College, Adult, A.P. Time: Approx. 52 Min. Ea. DVDs: 3
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It crosses the roof of the world, winding more than 2,400 tortuous miles across 20 mountain chains and two desert plateaus. It spans four great rivers, and cuts through the territory of 26 different ethnic groups. This is the ancient Tea Road, which opens Southwest China onto Tibet – and thereby Nepal, India, Persia, Mongolia and Russia, and then Europe. The legendary Tea Road was crossed by Marco Polo during his travels, but used by innumerable horse trains for countless centuries before him. Their tracks are beaten deep into the rocks. This series of documentaries follows in the hoof prints of those caravans, which hauled their baggage of tea across the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas to be sold in the markets of South West Asia and dispersed throughout the world.

Part I: In The Kingdom Of Green Gold
It is in the subtropical rainforests of Southwest China that our journey to the land of tea begins. We witness the harvest of wild tea, from the original and gigantic tea trees (camellia sinensis) but also the collecting of cultivated tea, the famous Pu’er Tea which is still cultivated here in the olden ways, by traditional tea planter families who have been here for centuries. The cultivation of tea, the harvest and sorting of the tea leaves, its fermentation and conditioning into cake and brick-like units to facilitate transportation on horseback is handled here to this day according to rituals thousands of years old. In each valley, within each ethnical group, sometimes even within a tribe or extended family, the tea producers have their very own secrets in the process of tea making, carried forward generation by generation.

Part II: In The Heart Of Shangri-La

With the green Gold now on horseback, the caravan will head north and climb over twenty mountain chains and cross four mighty rivers, including the Yangtze and Mekong. They make stopovers in lonely villages that hang from spectacular mountainsides in these lost parts of China. Often cut off from the rest of the world for as much as six months in the year, the villagers have developed remarkable skills to produce for themselves everything they need for their survival. For them, a crossing caravan is a welcome opportunity to reconnect to the world. Nature is harsh and savage, yet so beautiful and spectacular, that a universal spirituality has nested itself in the hearts of the men and women of these lost valleys and mountains. Buddhism is omnipresent: temples, stone prayers and other places of worship are everywhere. When our horse drivers leave these green parts of Shangri-La to confront the endless Bandga grassland in majestic altitudes, we understand that we are about to enter another completely different world.

Part III: On The Roof Of The World
It is only now, on the roof of the world, in the bareness of the Tibetan plateau, that we observe how these adventurers survive the challenges imposed by this long and difficult road. We taste their meals prepared over open log- fires with what is available, visit their caravanserais and share their rest in the open sky. From the sub-tropical South, it is a journey made of twelve long months: six to reach our goal Lhasa, and six for the return. Some of the horse drivers we encounter have made this epic journey more than twenty times in their lives. Lhasa, Holy Grail of Buddhism, is also an extraordinary platform of exchange between China and India, on either side of the Himalayans. It is here where the Chinese horse drivers end their journey and where others take over the prized tea to carry it further, to India, Nepal, Pakistan, Persia, Russia and other far away countries.

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