Cycling Around Sichuan · The 2023 “Tea Horse Ancient Road” Ya’an International Road Cycling Race Successfully Ends

Riding along the ancient road for thousands of years, cyclists had explored pandas’ hometown. After completing the fierce competition of “ten days for nine stations,” the Cycling around Sichuan · 2023 “Tea Horse Ancient Road Tour” Ya’an International Road Cycling Race (hereinafter referred to as “Tour round Ya’an”) successfully ends in the golden sunshine of October. As the first city-wide bicycle race in China, “Tour round Ya’an” has been in place since 2020 and has been held for four years. In the past four years, Ya’an has never stopped exploring, breaking-through and innovating. It responds to the expectations of millions of people with the sincerity of a city. And this expectation, are not betrayed!

Chen Zhongxian, the chief planner of Ya’an Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sports and Tourism, told the media during the interval between cycling race and transition that driven by the bicycle race, modern Ya’an is releasing her unique urban cultural charm and resource tension, endowing connotation of “the first city of Sichuan-Tibet Railway and a demonstration city of green development” .

Never-ending cycling feast

“Our goal is to keep the ‘Tea Horse Ancient Road’ cycling race going on persistently and become a ‘never-ending cycling feast’! ‘The five-year limit is actually a ‘misreading’ of the event! ” For this, Chen Zhongxian had something to say. He explained that the “Tea and Horse Ancient Road Tour” Ya’an International Road Cycling Race stood at the “very front” of policy dividend when the Sichuan Sports Bureau and Ya’an Municipal People’s Government signed the Strategic Cooperation Framework Agreement for Joint Promotion of High-quality Development of Ya’an Sports (2020-2025) in October 2020. This “Agreement” is not only aimed at the bicycle race, but also grasped the concept of the development of the “big sports” industry of Ya’an to build up Ya’an into a national demonstration base for the innovation and development of the sports industry by investing in sports competitions, physical education, sports culture and the construction of sports industrial parks and etc.. On this basis, the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau of Ya’an City and Sichuan Sports Industry Group jointly worked together to quickly land the “Tea Horse Ancient Road Tour” bicycle race. Chen Zhongxian further explained that “making this event the third largest cycling event in China within 5 years” is Ya’an’s initial goal for hosting the event, and not limited to 5 years. Our goal is to “revitalize the city through competition”, “promote tourism through sports”, and “shape culture through tourism”, thus integrating cultural, sports, and tourism, and developing together. Led by cycling competition, characterized by “cycling + tourism”, and carried by “mass cycling carnival”, we aim to create a number of high-quality sports tourism projects and create sports tourism demonstration bases, making Ya’an a true pilgrimage destination for cyclists.

Living “Cultural Relics” Tibetan Tea

As one of the origins of tea culture in the world, Sichuan Ya’an is definitely an undeniable presence to make tea in China. In Ya’an, with Mengding Mountain tea as the representative of “green tea” and Ya’an Tibetan tea as the representative of “black tea”, the combination of “green” and “black” outlines the profound tea culture in this area. The China Tea Collection Museum located in Yucheng District displays a total of 59999 pieces of original cultural relics, traditional tools, and other materials collected, organized, and preserved since the 25th year of the Ming Jiajing reign (year 1546). According to historical records, more than 70% of the tea imported into Tibet each year in the Qing Dynasty came from Sichuan, mainly the “brick tea” produced in Yazhou (Ya’an). The road along, is also the toughest tea horse ancient road among the mountain ranges running east-west, where mainly transported by human labor. So during that period, a special type of worker emerged –the porter. Tea leaves from Ya’an to Kangding (Tachienlu) were transported by the porters step by step. They set out from Ya’an and traveled westward through the Tachienlu and Changdu to Lhasa. They went one after another, interlocking each other, and then westward from Lhasa to foreign countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, and India, with a total length of nearly 4000 kilometers. These tea leaves were slowly fermented and turned from green to black in the huge temperature difference on the Qinghai Tibet Plateau, while unexpectedly mutated into a new type of tea called “black tea” when they reach Lhasa.

“Let the cultural relics ‘live’ ! Tea in Ya’an, horses in Tibet,  Tea and Horse Ancient Roads all over the districts and counties of Ya’an, and national key cultural relics protection units are everywhere!” Chen Zhongxian explained as if he were enumerating the heirlooms of his own family. He added that, as the most special and important place on Sichuan-Tibetan Tea and Horse Ancient Road, Ya’an is not only an important tea production place in China, but also the largest source of tea materials on Sichuan-Tibetan Tea and Horse Ancient Road. It is with Ya’an continuous brick tea supply, more than a thousand years, brick tea, as a solid bond, tightly connected the Tibetan and Han people .

In 2022, as one of the 43 joint application projects, the production techniques of South-road Brick Tea (black tea) and Mengshan Tea (green tea) were successfully promoted to the list of representative works of human intangible cultural heritage. Nowadays, 250000 households in Ya’an are engaged in the tea industry, with a population of 650000 involved. The tea industry has helped farmers increase their income by over 8000 RMB per capita. With the construction of a hundred kilometer and one million acre rural revitalization tea industry belt, Ya’an has successfully built several tea tourism complexes such as Mengding Mountain, Niunianping, Moon Lake, China Tibetan-tea Village, and Yuntai Mountain National Agricultural Park. The integration of tea tourism has injected new vitality into rural revitalization. This year, the cycling race tracks were “moved” to the top of Mengding Mountain for the first time at the Mingshan competition section, with the aim of using the “movement” of the competition to activate the “quietness” of the scenic spot and highlight the vitality of “sports+tourism”.

“Largest Garden” of Giant Panda Parks

“When speaking of giant pandas, it is almost deemed that the world giant pandas are in China, China giant pandas are in Sichuan, and Sichuan giant pandas are in Ya’an!” From the perspective of the Chief Planner of the Ya’an Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, Chen Zhongxian said that the most pondered question he thought is “how to transform giant panda cultural resources into cultural products”?

From the world giant panda scientific discovery place, to the world giant panda culture birthplace, and to the giant panda national park into the area of the first, the proportion of the first city, the number of mountains first, the number of national gifts first, wild release first, the whole chain protection first, Ya’an has rich and unique giant panda biological, cultural, scientific research and other resources. Throughout the country, there may not be a city like Ya’an, the entire areas of the county (district) are covered with giant panda culture. Ya’an accounts for 27% of the total area of the giant panda national park. At present, Ya’an is speeding up the construction of important destinations of world giant panda culture tourism, the 1869 China Giant Panda Ecological World Park Opening Ceremony, the 9th Ya’an Giant Panda and Natural Film Week and other influential activities will be presented in succession. At the same time, Baoxing County Deng Chigou “giant panda traceability” community, Yingjing County Longcanggou “giant panda exploration” community, Tianquan County Liabahe River “giant panda harmony” community, Shimian County Lianziping “giant pandas release”community, Lushan County Dachuan Town “giant panda cooling” community and etc. are also accelerating. The implementation and construction of each project have sounded the call for Ya’an to become an important destination for world giant panda cultural tourism. “Walking in Sichuan with ease and watching pandas at Ya’an” will be the most powerful footnote to the “Super IP, the birthplace of the world’s giant panda culture” .

Chen Zhongxian said that besides the public IP of giant pandas, Ya’an will actively explore more public cycling carnival activities for people to participate with the guidance of cycling competitions, and encourage counties (districts) to create and develop the “one county, one brand” public-brand events, highlighting the tension of riding movement.

It is the end, and also the beginning!

From the Land of Tianfu to the Snowy Plateau, this is the starting point of the 318 National Highway Sichuan-Tibet Line, known as the “Landscape Avenue of the Chinese People”. Whether you are hiking, cycling, or self-driving, there are countless ways to reach the “Distance”. The zero kilometer self-driving base of the 318 Sichuan-Tibet Line will use “You must drive in this life” as the secret code to pass and knock on the door of the traveler’s soul!

Next trip, see you in Ya’an! Look forward to meeting you again!

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