Writing About the Affairs on the Frontier 1

Zhang, Qiao (circa 874 A.D.)

There is no sound of a bugle here in the brisk autumn.
The soldiers on guard lean against the watchtower.
The spring wind blows toward the green tomb 2.
The sun sets on Liang City.
The immense desert has no military checkpoints.
There are tourists visiting this remote frontier.
I wish the northern border tribes' attitude toward China could be like this river
Flowing south forever.

1 After the rebellion fomented by General An, the military power of the Tang dynasty was greatly weakened. Tibetans took advantage of this opportunity to occupy the land west of the Yellow River and Long Mountain. In 851 A.D., Yi-Chao Zhang, the leader of the people in Sha City, rose up to repel Tibetans and captured another ten cities. Then he asked his elder brother Yi-Tan Zhang to send the map of the eleven cities as a gift to the emperor's court. In 857 A.D., General Yan-Xin Shang of Tibet surrendered to the Tang dynasty and brought another piece of land, He-Huang, to China as a gift. Afterwards, China's west border became peaceful. This is the background information crucial for understanding this poem.

2 The green tomb refers to the Tomb of Zhao-Jun Wang. It is now located five miles south of Hohhot City. Wang was originally a concubine of Emperor Yuan of the Han dynasty. Which concubines the emperor chose to visit was solely determined by their portraits, done by the royal artist, Yan-Shou Mao. However, Mao was corrupt. If a concubine failed to bribe him, he made her look ugly. Wang did not bribe Mao, so the emperor never visited her. In a peace treaty, Wang was to be sent to marry Ho-Han-Xie, the King of the Hans (the old name for Hungary). Only a few months before she left for Hungary did she have a chance to meet the emperor. Emperor Yuan was amazed at her beauty and quickly fell in love with her. When he retrieved her portrait, he discovered Mao's corruption. The emperor was so angry that he immediately arrested Mao and killed him. But Wang still had to leave the emperor because the marriage was already arranged. Here the spring wind symbolizes the virtue of the Emperor of China. The green grass on Wang's Tomb is compared to the pacified tribes of Tibetans.