He­nan: Silk Road, Cen­tral Plains

At the east­ern edge of the Silk Road sat He­nan Prov­ince. “One City, One Gate, One Pass, One Road” de­scribes the four main as­pects of this area on the glo­ri­ous road.

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Scott Bray Edited by Justin Davis

Dur­ing the West­ern Han Dy­nasty (202 BC–AD 8), the West­ern Re­gions de­vel­oped with the spread of trade and cul­ture be­tween the east and west. Cul­ti­vars like se­same, broad beans, pomegranates, gar­lic, grapes and al­falfa came to the Chi­nese in­te­rior. The “heav­enly horses,” the Ferghana and Wusun, came with them, and a wide va­ri­ety of furs that flowed end­lessly from the Silk Road into the Cen­tral Plains. Mean­while, silk and silk tex­tiles from the Cen­tral Plains trav­elled to the West­ern Re­gions and Europe. At the east­ern edge of the Silk Road sat He­nan Prov­ince. “One City, One Gate, One Pass, One Road” be­came a mo­saic of the four gems that stood here on that once great road.

On June 22, 2014, the 38th ses­sion of the UN­ESCO World Her­itage Com­mit­tee was held at Doha, Qatar. China, Kaza­khstan and Kyr­gyzs­tan made a joint ap­pli­ca­tion for the Silk Road net­work of the Chang’an-tian­shan Cor­ri­dor onto the list of World Her­itage Sites.

Among the Her­itage Sites in­cluded were He­nan Prov­ince’s Luoyang City Ru­ins of the Han (202 BC–AD 220) and Wei (AD 220–266) dy­nas­ties, the Dingding Gate Ru­ins of Luoyang of the

Sui (AD 581–618) and Tang (AD 618–907) dy­nas­ties, Xin’an Hangu Pass Ru­ins of the Han Dy­nasty and the Shi­hao Sec­tion Ru­ins of the Xiao­han Route.

Hangu Pass, Watch­ing Over His­tory

Lo­cated in the Guan Town­ship of Xin’an County, the Xin’an Hangu Pass was built in 114 BC. To the west of the pass are high plateaus, deep ravines are to the east, the Qin Moun­tains are to its south and the Yel­low River is at its north. With over 2,000 years of his­tory, it is one of the ear­li­est strate­gic passes of its kind and one of the most im­por­tant relics along the Silk Road.

Hangu Pass is one of China’s most an­cient passes. Ow­ing to the moun­tain pass be­ing sur­rounded by treach­er­ous ter­rain on all sides like a box (han), the gate was given this name. His­tor­i­cally there have been three passes with the name “Hangu Pass”—the Qin Hangu Pass, the Han (Dy­nasty) Hangu Pass and the Wei (Dy­nasty) Hangu Pass.

Ac­cord­ing to the Em­peror Wu Chap­ter of The Book of Han, Em­peror Wu of the Han Dy­nasty (reign: 141–87 BC) aban­doned the Qin Pass in 114 BC, cre­ated the Hongnong Pre­fec­ture and or­dered that Hangu Pass be moved to Xin’an. The pass was then moved to Xin’an, and is his­tor­i­cally known as the Han Hangu Pass. Com­man­der of the Han Navy Gen­eral Yang Pu re­ceived an or­der from Em­peror Wu to move the Qin Hangu Pass in Ling­bao 300 li, or 150 kilo­me­tres (km), east to Xin’an County.

A year af­ter the project to move the pass to the east, Em­peror Wu quickly es­tab­lished a pre­fec­ture be­tween the Qin and Han Hangu Passes. This was none other than Hongnong, a name heard far and wide in Chi­nese his­tory. The pre­fec­ture it­self con­trolled 11 coun­ties, gov­ern­ing the belt along the Qin Hangu Pass.

Not only did the es­tab­lish­ment of the Hongnong Pre­fec­ture strengthen an area around the cap­i­tal, it gave the cen­tral gov­ern­ment greater con­trol over the route east of the pass. Dur­ing the cen­turies that fol­lowed the Han Dy­nasty, the Xin’an Hangu Pass re­mained a crit­i­cally vi­tal mil­i­tary strong­hold for mul­ti­ple dy­nas­ties.

Xin’an Hangu Pass was well re­garded. Many em­per­ors set foot with its walls, and noted writ­ers and schol­ars wrote fre­quently of the famed pass. Em­peror Guangwu (reign: AD 25–57) of the East­ern Han Dy­nasty (AD 25–220) once es­tab­lished the Da­jia Palace (“Palace of the Im­pe­rial Char­iot”) here at the pass, and Em­peror Gao­zong (AD 649–683) of Tang and Wu Ze­tian (only fe­male ruler in an­cient China, reign: AD 690–705) like­wise built Hebi Palace (“Palace of Har­mony”) here.

To­day the ru­ins of Han Hangu Pass it­self have long since van­ished, but the relics within the area give tes­ta­ment to the Silk Road’s abun­dant pros­per­ity.

From June 2012 to Oc­to­ber 2013, the Luoyang Mu­nic­i­pal In­sti­tute of Cul­tural Relics and Ar­chae­ol­ogy be­gan an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion of the Han Hangu Pass ru­ins. Ex­ca­vat­ing an area to­tal­ing 3,325 square me­tres (sq.m), the In­sti­tute es­sen­tially es­tab­lished the de­fence sys­tem used by the Pass, as well as the lo­ca­tion of its east­ern and south­ern walls. The ex­ca­va­tion of the ru­ins of Han Hangu Pass’s east­ern wall was rec­og­nized as one of the top ten new dis­cov­er­ies na­tion­wide in ar­chae­ol­ogy of 2013.

The An­cient Xiao­han Route a Deep Im­pres­sion in Shi­hao

The an­cient Xiao­han route lies be­tween the east­ern cap­i­tal of Luoyang and the west­ern cap­i­tal Chang’an within an­cient Shanzhou (to­day’s Shan County, He­nan Prov­ince). Not only was the route be­tween the Xiao Moun­tains called the “belt be­tween the two cap­i­tals,” it was also part of the Silk Road.

As much of its path runs along the Xiao Moun­tains and crosses the Hangu Pass, the route has been called Xiao­han for ages. Start­ing at Luoyang, the route trav­els west­ward to the Tong Pass, snaking across the moun­tain ranges and wind­ing through val­leys along the Xiao Moun­tains.

Fol­low­ing the open­ing of the Silk Road, the Xiao­han route was linked with other routes and be­gan see­ing trav­el­ing mer­chants and carts in droves. Chang­ing from a lo­cal to in­ter­na­tional route prac­ti­cally overnight, Xiao­han was a ma­jor part along the Silk Road.

The Xiao­han route runs 200 km along the hilly east­ern edge of the Loess Plateau. As much of the route is sur­rounded by moun­tains, lush forests and the Yel­low River it­self, trav­el­ers were able to sub­sist off the land dur­ing their jour­ney be­tween the cap­i­tals.

The Xiao­han route is still pre­served to­day. Nowhere is that more ap­par­ent than at the Shi­hao sec­tion of the World Her­itage Site. At the north­ern foothills of Jinyin Moun­tain, Shi­hao’s lime­stone road stretches 230 me­tres (m) from north­west to south­east. Its de­cid­edly un­even sur­face is only a few me­tres wide, yet this was one of the ma­jor Silk Road routes in the Cen­tral Plains, where trav­ellers and carts laden with sup­plies took to the road a thou­sand years ago.

There are some an­cient cart wheel tread marks, hoof prints and reser­voirs that can still be seen at the Shi­hao site. The Shi­hao sec­tion was built en­tirely

on the lime­stone there, and both the main thor­ough­fare and rest ar­eas rolled into one sec­tion of road. The roads were trav­eled by the cart­load. A mil­len­nium of wheels and beasts of bur­den tak­ing the route left deep im­pres­sions in the rock.

The scant few hun­dred m of the Shi­hao route make up the only one of 33 roads that were ac­cepted in the UN­ESCO ap­pli­ca­tion as a road­way her­itage site of the Silk Road. Al­though there are tracks that can be seen along the Silk Road on the routes around Gansu’s Beishi Cave Tem­ple and Ningxia’s Mount Meru Cave, nei­ther can com­pare with Shi­hao— nor were they part of the Silk Road’s main route.

Around the Shi­hao Her­itage Site are such rem­nants as rest turnouts, stone hearths and bea­con tow­ers. The foun­da­tions where thatch huts once stood at the turnouts, along with the stone hearths that trav­el­ers used to cook their meals fur­ther il­lus­trate the last­ing his­tory that oc­curred here.

In 759, the poet sage Du Fu (AD 712–770) trav­elled the Xiao­han route, tear­fully writ­ing his “Three Of­fi­cers” and “Three Part­ings.” In the mid­dle of the An Lushan Re­bel­lion, Du Fu was made civil ser­vant of Huazhou. Leav­ing Luoyang for the city, he passed through Xin’an, Shi­hao and Tong Pass. Wher­ever he went, the land was filled with vic­tims of the re­bel­lion. The war left the masses starv­ing, with lit­tle hope to sur­vive. In an­guish, the poet put blood and tears to quill, writ­ing his renowned “Three Of­fi­cers” and “Three Part­ings.”

Sec­tions to­tal­ing 6 km more of an­cient road rem­nants have cur­rently been dis­cov­ered, some buried deep be­neath the earth, be­yond the 230 m of the Shi­hao sec­tion. Go­ing fur­ther off the Xiao­han route, to the old LuoyangTong High­way drowned un­der fields of grass, the mod­ern Long­hai Rail­way, the Lian­huo Ex­press­way and the Na­tional and Pro­vin­cial High­ways, one can’t help but feel how much the times have changed.

Rise and Fall of Cen­turies

Luoyang was the cap­i­tal dur­ing four dy­nas­ties—the East­ern Han, Wei, West­ern Jin (AD 266–316) and North­ern Wei (AD 386–534)—span­ning a time from the first to the sixth cen­turies, and was also called Han­wei Luoyang City.

On the Yiluo plains, 15 km east of to­day’s Luoyang with the Mang Moun­tains to the north, the Luo River to its south, Hu­lao Pass guard­ing the east and Hangu Pass con­trol­ling the west are the ru­ins of this an­cient cap­i­tal.

Han­wei Luoyang was a place that can­not be over­looked when dis­cussing the his­tory of the Silk Road. Many tales and events that peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with to­day, such as Cai Lun’s pa­per­mak­ing and Zhang Heng’s devel­op­ment of car­tog­ra­phy, hap­pened here.

Since the open­ing of the Silk Road by Em­peror Wu of Han, the con­nec­tion be­tween the Han Dy­nasty and the West­ern Re­gions grad­u­ally in­creased, ex­chang­ing trade, cul­ture and re­li­gion. Yet by the end of the West­ern Han, war and re­bel­lion cut off the con­nec­tion be­tween the West­ern Re­gions and the Cen­tral Plains.

Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Ming of Han (AD 58–75), the Xiongnu fre­quently in­vaded China’s bor­ders. The em­peror sent his armies and Gen­eral Ban Chao (AD 32–102) to the West­ern Re­gions to strike against the Xiongnu.

Ban Chao left from the city of Han­wei Luoyang, tak­ing with him tal­ented diplo­mats and mil­i­tary strate­gists to clear a path through the West­ern Re­gions. He over­saw the area for over 30 years and was be­queathed the ti­tle of Pro­tec­torate of the West­ern Re­gions by the East­ern Han Dy­nasty and given a po­si­tion of no­bil­ity.

The East­ern Han re­stored its con­nec­tion with the West­ern Re­gion and safe­guarded the smooth pas­sage of the Silk Road, im­prov­ing the ex­change of cul­ture be­tween China and the na­tions within Cen­tral and West­ern Asia.

Dong Zhuo (gen­eral and war­lord, de­ceased AD 192) turned the flour­ish­ing 160-year old East­ern Han cap­i­tal of Luoyang to ashes, mark­ing the end of the East­ern Han Dy­nasty. Later, chal­lenger for the throne Cao Cao (AD 155–220) un­der­took a mas­sive project to re­build the city, and re­stored it as the seat of the throne. At the end of the West­ern Jin Dy­nasty how­ever, Liu Yao (de­ceased AD 329) once again put Luoyang to the torch, leav­ing the city naught but smoke in the wind.

Em­peror Xiaowen of North­ern Wei (AD 471–499) de­creed that the cap­i­tal would be moved to Luoyang and so the im­pe­rial cap­i­tal of Luoyang was re­built on the aban­doned ru­ins of the orig­i­nal city, and later be­came an im­mense city.

Af­ter the North­ern Wei was sep­a­rated into the East­ern and West­ern Wei dy­nas­ties, the East­ern Wei moved the cap­i­tal to Yecheng. Wars oc­curred in the years that fol­lowed left the on­cea­gain pros­per­ous city in ruin. Fol­low­ing th­ese dis­as­ters, Luoyang fell into ruin and

aban­don­ment, grad­u­ally for­got­ten by the rest of the world.

The mas­sive cap­i­tal and stun­ning palace that once ex­isted so many years ago have long since been lost to his­tory. The re­mains of the city walls and the foun­da­tion of the Taiji Palace speak of Han­wei Luoyang’s rise and fall.

Han­wei Luoyang was one of the start­ing points of the Silk Road in the Ori­ent. Its ru­ins rep­re­sent the cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Cen­tral Plains from the East­ern Han to the North­ern Wei dy­nas­ties, rep­re­sent­ing a city that tra­versed both space and time, and spread and lo­calised cul­tural and ma­te­rial ex­change and Bud­dhist teach­ings on the Cen­tral Plains.

Dingding Gate, Wit­ness to Luoyang’s Great­ness

Af­ter the des­o­la­tion of Han­wei Luoyang, trade cen­tre of the Ori­ent, Sui­tang Luoyang took its place. The fires dur­ing the Wei, Jin and North­ern and South­ern (AD 420–589) dy­nas­ties laid waste to Han­wei Luoyang. Af­ter restor­ing con­trol over the na­tion, Em­peror Yang (reign: AD 604 –618) of the Sui Dy­nasty sought to build a new Luoyang on the west­ern side of the old city.

In AD 605, min­is­ters like Yang Su (AD 544–606) and Yuwen Kai (AD 555–612) would “hire two mil­lion work­ers” each month to build the new city. To the north of the new city were the Mang moun­tains, with the Dragon Gate to its south. The ma­jes­tic Luo River, which pre­vi­ous dy­nas­ties had also used as a nat­u­ral bar­rier, flowed through the in­ner city.

Em­peror Yang of the Sui Dy­nasty be­came the first Em­peror to pass through the city’s south­ern gate, known as Dingding Gate, which was part of the main thor­ough­fare through the outer city. Its name comes from a rit­ual ves­sel (ding). Upon re­ceiv­ing the nine ves­sels King Wu of Zhou (reign: 1046–1043 BC) sent to Luoyang, the gate’s name was changed to Dingding Gate (“The Gate where the Ding were sent”).

Em­peror Yang’s plan was a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to con­struc­tion of that pe­riod. The river crossed through the city, and fol­low­ing the Sui dy­nasty, the Sui­tang Canal was ex­ca­vated. The salt, fish and horses of the north and the silk and porce­lain of the south could then take the canal straight into Luoyang for trade, turn­ing the city of Sui­tang Luoyang into a lo­cus of trade be­tween East and West.

Em­peror Yang of Sui es­tab­lished the Si­fang Guan out­side Dingding Gate, which was used to re­ceive en­voys from king­doms far and wide, as well as for han­dling mu­nic­i­pal and trade mat­ters. A great deal of im­por­tance was placed on re­la­tions with the West­ern Re­gions dur­ing the Sui and Tang dy­nas­ties, both ex­pend­ing an enor­mous amount of hu­man, phys­i­cal and mon­e­tary cap­i­tal to gov­ern the bor­der­lands.

It was here at Sui­tang Luoyang that Em­peror Yang of Sui once held grand par­leys with en­voys, par­tic­u­larly those from the West­ern Re­gions, and even held large, in­ter­na­tional trade meet­ings.

Sui­tang Luoyang was cap­i­tal of the Sui Dy­nasty for 15 years, af­ter which it be­came the cap­i­tal of such dy­nas­ties as the Tang, Later Liang, Later Tang and Later Zhou. Like­wise, Dingding Gate re­tained its place as the cap­i­tal’s main gate. It wasn‘t un­til the end of the North­ern Song (AD 960–1127) that the gate slowly fell into dis­use.

The ru­ins of Dingding Gate rep­re­sent the height and splen­dor of the Silk Road. It wit­nessed the zenith of agri­cul­tural in­no­va­tion in the Ori­ent from the sev­enth to the tenth cen­turies, and held an in­ti­mate con­nec­tion with the pros­per­ous traders that came to the cap­i­tal.

Some an­i­mal tracks on the Silk Road have sur­vived the test of time and are gen­er­ally the most en­dur­ing marks. Dur­ing the ex­ca­va­tion of the Dingding Gate ru­ins, a 90-m wide road from the Tang dy­nasty was dis­cov­ered, full of cart tracks, hoof prints, even hu­man foot­prints.

Among th­ese prints is an as­tound­ing hoof print 20 cen­time­tres in di­am­e­ter, which ex­perts have con­firmed was made by a camel. Of­ten called the “ships of the desert,” camels were a crit­i­cal tool in trans­port­ing goods across the Silk Road. They were at Chang’an (to­day’s Xi’an) dur­ing the Han and Tang pe­ri­ods, and here, at the ru­ins of Dingding Gate, this camel foot­print shows the con­nec­tion be­tween Sui­tang Luoyang and the Silk Road.

To­day the Dingding Gate Ru­ins Mu­seum, built above the ru­ins of the gate it­self, look out to­ward the Fang­tang City Gate, the Youcheng Gate, the city walls and the tow­ers of the city and the palace. The space be­tween the palace and city tow­ers has been made into an ex­hi­bi­tion area fo­cused on show­ing the sto­ried his­tory of the Dingding Gate ru­ins and the relics un­earthed dur­ing the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion of Sui­tang Luoyang. In the city tower ex­hi­bi­tion hall, one is greeted by a 1:800 scale model of Sui­tang Luoyang that gives an un­der­stand­ing of the city’s mas­sive scale long ago.

Xin’an Hangu Pass Ru­ins

The re­stored foun­da­tion of a pagoda at Yongn­ing Tem­ple of Luoyang

The Mu­seum of Dingding Gate Ru­ins of Luoyang

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