The two major travellers to India, Faxian and Xuanzang visited India from the circuitous western route, while the third one Yijing travelled by sea. Xuanzang described hardships in his journey, and crossed the western frontier in defiance of a ban by the emperor.

The Tea Horse Route, through Sikkim-Tibet seems shorter and intuitively easier to cross, since the Silk Road passes through the Gobi Desert, the Taklamakan Desert, and hostile territory, under influence of Central Asian nomads.

Silk Road The Western Route through Silk Road

Tea Horse Road The Tea Horse Road

  • 6
    I suspect part of the answer is "Himalaya".
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 6:24
  • 1
    Could you clarify which picture stands for what aspect of the question?
    – gktscrk
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 14:20
  • 1
    Which if the routes is flatter & which one has a lower elevation above sea level? A steep route & one into a very cold regions will always be more arduous than a flatter route & where the weather is milder.
    – Fred
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 22:05
  • That second map is suspect, since Dhaka and Kolkata did not exist during the time of the Silk Road.
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 12:56
  • The wikipedia article you linked states that "from around a thousand years ago, the Tea Horse Road become a trade link from Yunnan to Tibet; and to Central China via Sichuan Province." Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing all lived in the 4th-8th centuries CE, before this tea horse road via Tibet became an important trade route.
    – 0range
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


The Silk Road was a very specific road since it maintained an entire ecosystem alive: Silk was one of the symbolic goods of this road, which was produced in China and bought nearly everywhere along the road. Persians, Arabs, Italian traders and Europea nobles bought it. So all of them needed a road through which silk could come.

The Tea road did not fulfill the same goal, because it ended East of India: goods still needed to be transferred by boats or land to Arabic peninsula, and then in Middle-East and Europe. This sea shipping needed time, resources, and was during in the Middle Ages a little but not largely faster and secured than roads.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.