The ruin of a tower on a hill at Yangguan
Yangguan, or Yangguan Pass (traditional Chinese: 陽關; simplified Chinese: 阳关; literally: "Sun Gate"), is a mountain pass that was fortified by Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty and used as an outpost in the colonial dominions adjacent to ancient China. It is located approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) southwest of Dunhuang, in the Gansu territory to the west of the Shaanxi province in the far Northwest China, which was in ancient times the westernmost administrative center of China. It was established as a frontier defense post, as well as a developed place in China's remote western frontier; Emperor Wu encouraged Chinese to settle there. Today Yangguan is located in Nanhu Village, along the Hexi Corridor.
Yangguan is one of China's two most important western passes, the other being Yumenguan. In Chinese, yang means "sunny" and is also used to mean "south" (the sunny side of a hill being the southern side). Because Yangguan lies to the south of the Yumenguan Pass, it derived its name. Together with Yumenguan Pass, it was an important site on the Silk Road.
Yangguan is associated with sad parting in Chinese literature as it was the last stop outside China for Chinese travellers after leaving China to the Western Regions. In a famous poem, "Seeing Yuaner off on a Mission to Anxi", the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei wrote:
Seeing Yuaner off on a Mission to Anxi
The morning rain of Weicheng dampens the light dust,
The guest house is green with the colour of fresh willows.
Let's finish another cup of wine, my dear sir,
Past the Yangguan out to the west, old friends there'll be none.
Wang Wei's poem inspired one of China's best-known musical pieces, the "Three Variations of Yangguan" (Yangguan Sandie, traditional Chinese: 陽關三疊; simplified Chinese: 阳关三叠) which existed as early as the Tang Dynasty. The "three variations" indicates that the poem is to be repeated, either in part or in whole, three times, and each time with some variation. A current popular version is based on a late Qing dynasty tune; originally played on guqin, this version has been played on the guanzi, on other instruments, and adapted for vocal performance.
- ”TravelChinaGuide.com”, Yangguan Pass of Great Wall (Yangguan)
- Huang Renge (2007). "On the Chinese Piano Music "Three Variations of the Yangguan Pass" (Yangguan San Die)". Canadian Social Science 2 (6): 76–77.
- "31. Song of Yangguan".
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