At the extreme east of Shaanxi province, situated on the south bank of the Huanghe just below its confluence with the Wei River and where the Huang bends to the east. Tongguan has always stood as the eastern gateway into the Wei River Valley and Shaanxi Province, known to the people of the North China Plain as 關內 Guannei, Within the Pass. |
The loss of Tongguan usually led directly to the fall of Changan as it did in 755 during the An Lushan Rebellion.
What a disappointment to visit this historically important site and find nothing left! This historically important fortress pass has been wiped out, starting in the 1960's when its walls were destroyed and finally in 1999 when the new freeway linking Luoyang to Xian cut through the pass along the south bank of the Huanghe. Virtually nothing remains except, at the site of the old east gate, two lumps of tamped earth and brick, like dead camel humps, in the yard of a dilapidated, forlorn one room museam. The museam houses a model of the Tonguan and a few old photos, including one of Chiang Kaishek perched on the old east gate.
An Lushan was a Sogdian soldier and surely not a poet. However, his revolt and sacking of Changan (Xian) dispersed poets like Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei, was directly responsible for the creation of the High Tang's greatest poetry. Without the An Lushan rebellion, much of the greatest Chinese poetry would never have been written. What would Tang poetry be if the pass had held out against An Lushan’s assault? If Du Fu had not suffered as he did, would he have ever written anything matching his everlastingly beautiful laments? And would Li Bai have written as he did, had he not been cast adrift after the An Lushan rebellion?