Historical background of Tea
Road between Mongolia,
Russia and China
Ассоциация “Чайная культура”
“Tea” was one of the commodities that
played a historical role in the lifestyle of
Mongolian forefathers. There is a theory that
before our era (B.C.) people in Southeast Tibet
were the first to start processing and consuming
During the period of Altan khan of Tumed,
religious advocacy of Gelegpa in Tibet was in
need of a powerful political protection whereas
Mongolians were looking for a strong religious
influence. As a result of such a mutual interest,
Altan khan of Tumed created a new rank for
the religious leader of Tibet and proclaimed
him as the “Dalai Lama”. Chinese merchants
used to buy military horses from Tibet via
Uigurs by trading tea during the Min dynasty
early time.
In 1571 officially opened trade markets
called “Horse trade” in six different
locations. From this time on, Mongolians
started trading their gelded horses for
silver ingots and other commodities, and
the abovementioned “Horse trade” was
opened in Khaalgan city. In the autumn
of 1577, Chinese began permitting the
trade of tea with Mongolia. Eventually,
Khaalgan city became a key intersection
of tea trade.
A friendly relationship was set between Russia and Altan
khanate, and ambassadors of Altan khanate made visits on
four different occasions during the span of 1632-1638.
In 1638 Altan khan Ombo-Erdene treated Russian diplomats
Vasily Starkav and Stepan Neverov with such beverages,
which suggests it was the first the Russians tried a tea. It is
surprising to learn that it took an effort for Altan khan to
convince V. Starkav to convey 200 packs of tea as a gift for
king Mikhail Fedorovich. Aristocrats liked the tea, and
gradually started to bring more teach to Russia. Inevitably,
tea became popular among the public, and was rated in the
list of luxurious commodities, after gold, silver and
valuable stones.
Amongst the Chinese trade firms, Dashengkui firm –
the biggest trader with Mongolia – organized his
operations from the beginning aiming to engage in
trade with Mongolians. The firm was able to operate
in a very flexible manner for any business operations
and transactions. At the time, from the wholesale tea
trade stationed in Hankow, they transported bulks of
tea – which was preferred by Mongolians – to their
headquarters in the Khukh khot (city), where they
made packing of the products and made logistical
preparations on quantity and destination of orders.
For Mongolians tea was equivalent to money, and
they kept it to trade for other goods and products.
Camel caravans transported tea continuously throughout
the year, and initially tea was transported by
Mongolians from Khaalgan and traded in Khyakta. In
1865, the first Trade Representative’s Office was
established in Khuree to transport tea to Russia in
smaller quantities. A few years later, other trade firms
started establishing their own representatives and
branches to transport and distribute the tea – that
arrived from Khaalgan – in Khuree to Russia.
the Dashengkui company had a special right to trade tea
to Mongolia and later on to Russia (similar to license
or special authorization in modern terms). In Ulyastai
the Dashengkui company had two warehouses in the
first one they were sorting out tea brought from
Khukh Khot to distribute it to different directions and
the second one was used to store and pack goods
purchased in Mongolia to transmit them to China
inland through Khukh Khot. From Ulyastai camel
caravan was diverging and going into different
directions, as Khovd, Khuree, Khukh Khot and
Khaalgan and amongst them the route between
Ulyastai and Khukh Khot was the biggest trade
junction of the Dashengkui company.
“Tea road” through Mongolia was closely
interrelated to trade and economic relations
with two neighbors . This had contributed
greatly to cultural exchanges between peoples
of three countries as well.The Mongolian vast
steppe served as an overland bridge for tea
trade between Russia and China. Before start
of the sea transportation trade route through
Mongolia was the shortest route connecting
Asia and Europe.
Tea Road through Mongolia
Thank You!