Mary Jenkins writes in the May 2010 National Geographic about Tibetan cowboys and Chinese-made motorcycles in his Tea Horse Road piece unwittingly revealing the truth about Tibetan life under Chinese rule.
The Tibetan cowboys, who once used horses, now use motorcycles to tend their flocks. On the way to 17,756-foot Nubgang Pass, Jenkins passes the black yak-hair tents of Tibetan nomads, and sees big Chinese trucks or Land Cruisers parked outside. He wonders how poor Tibetans can afford such luxuries. Aren’t they supposed to be suffering?
I think, “Maybe they are smuggling drugs into China from India”. As I read on, I learn I’m wrong.
On his way back from the pass, Jenkins discovers these Tibetan cowboys have found wealth in their high grasslands from parasite infected caterpillars called Yartsa Gompo in Tibet and Chong Cao in China. These dead caterpillars sell to Chinese medicine shops throughout Asia for as much as 80 dollars a gram—more than the price for a gram of gold.
The Chinese and Tibetans think these dead caterpillars are a cure-all medicine that also acts as an aphrodisiac boosting sexual performance—just what China needs with its population of almost 1.4 billion.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.
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