- “To Control Tibet, First Pacify Kham”: Trade Routes and “Official Routes” (Guandao) in Easternmost Kham
- Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 5, Number 2, November 2016
- pp. 239-263
- View Citation
This article focuses on the trade routes in the western Sichuan borderlands that facilitated contact and trade between Chinese counties and Eastern Tibet. In particular, the article offers a description of “official routes” (guandao)—which the Chinese emperor twice proclaimed to be the vital mode of access between China and Tibet—from Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital, to Khampa areas, with Lhasa as the final destination. The exchange of goods in this region followed various routes during different periods. From the tenth to sixteenth centuries, transactions occurred primarily along the borders of Amdo (Tib. A mdo, Northeastern Tibet), but for political, economic, and practical reasons, such exchanges became more limited geographically and eventually focused along the Sichuan-Kham/Ngawa border. Many routes shifted to the towns of Kangding (Tib. Dartsedo) and Songpan (Tib. Zungchu), the main sites of distribution, where rich opportunities for trade and a strictly limiting transport geography made them important entrepôts that evolved into centers of prosperity. The geographic range of this article reaches to these two towns and leaves the investigation of the routes that led to western centers such as Derge, Batang, Chamdo, and Jyekundo for future research.