Jianmenguan, Not A Pass
by Li Xiaobo
I remember it was not long before I started my academic career in Beijing that I wrote a research essay about my hometown, Sichuan Province. Then, I handed it to my tutor who even did not take a look at it, and put the paper aside. Shortly after that, he explained to me, “It make no sense for a students from Sichuan to write something about his or her hometown. You should pay more attention to somethings new about other provinces.” However, the funny fact is that when I graduated and was going to return to Sichuan, my tutor told me that you might well study Sichuan from now on.But unlike the situation when I just entered school andsaw Sichuan from the angle of a boy who had never gone out of Sichuan, this time I observed Sichuan from the stand point of the Central Central Plains.
The sense of basin is a popular topic among people inside and outside the basin. The non-Sichuan people prefer to take notice of it while people of Sichuan province have to try to defend themselves. A famous scholar in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasty, Gu Zuyu, had three wonderful views in his masterpiece Essentials of Geography for Reading History.Firstly, there is two paths of entering the Sichuan Province, Shu Dao and Jiang Dao. The path on the land, Shu Dao,cuts through crossing the Jianmen while the waterway, Jiang Dao, can be traced to Kuimen. Secondly, it is impossible for the people of Sichuan to successfully fight against enemiesat the two gates mentioned above and it is crucial to put the scope of the defense beyond the passageways of Kuimen and Jianmen. In this point, Zhuge Liang, the prime minister of the Shu Kingdom in 221-263, demonstrated a remarkable insight. He let the General Guan Yu to guardin the eastern border of Shu Kingdom. In the north, Zhuge went out of Qi Mountain for six times when Shu Kingdom stood on adangerously uncertain situation and put forward a bold strategic idea “Attack as a means of defense”. The third point of view is his regret towards the cowardice of the Sichuan people. He raised a question why they did not take the initiative to attack while enemies from outside the Shu Kingdom invaded frequently from the passes of Kuimen and Jianmen.
I appreciate Gu Zuyu 's analysis of history and geography situation about Shu area(Sichuan). Therefore,I always feel sorry when the local residents’ saying “Jianmen Pass is the most difficult one to pass under heaven” has become a conventional expression among Sichuan residents. Over the long Chinese history, were there any so-called the most dangerous border pass or gateway? Shudao, by the name of “Jinniu Road”came into being with the unwanted reputation due to the king of Shu Kingdom’s avariceinducing Qin Kingdom to invade into Shu (appellation of Sichuan province). During the Five Dynasties and Ten states, after Meng Chang, emperor of Hou Shu surrendered himself to generals from the Song Dynasty, Lady Huaruiwas thrown mournfully into Song’s emperor’s harem.She wrote the sentences, “The concubines of Hou Shu in the deep harem did not know a little about their motherland’s falling when the surrender flags was hanging on the outside wall of Meng Chang’s official residence with the tragedy that Hou Shu’s national forces including 140,000 soldiers all voluntarily removing their armors.” How dare Jianmen Pass could be called as the most difficult gateway to pass as the divas of Shu even had a clear idea of the collapse of their kingdom.
“Shudao paths in ancient Sichuan were difficult, almost inaccessible!” Li bai’s sentence has almost become the pronoun of Shu Dao. Well, in fact, Shu Dao is not so difficult to pass as Li Baihas described. As early as in the Western Han Dynasty, Sima Qian recorded the convenient transportation between the two areas of Shaanxi (site of Western Han Dynasty’s capital) and Sichuan in his main works Records of the Historian, saying that “the gallery roads stretching five hundred kilometers are accessibly connected.”In fact, the poem Hard Roads in Shu is the feeling of Li Bai frustrated for all his talents and looking up to the direction of Chang’an.After waiting for several decades, when Emperor Xuanzuan of Tang Dynasty summoned him to Chang’an, Mr.Li Bai scorned the call with wildlaughter saying “Leaning back and laughing when walking out of the door, could I be useless like a ferryman?” Therefore, there is a very superstitious Emperor Temple of Wenchang in the Zitong County, a man enjoying great mental power in Sichuan Province, military generals in the past who were keen to fight for the tripod in the central plains always kneel before the temple and pray to return home with triumph.
But with Jianmen Pass, Sichuan Province has a landmark where the seemingly closed basin areahas not stopped the pace of opening. In terms of politics, economy, culture, Sichuanhas conducted material and spiritual exchanges with outside world. South of Jianmen Pass is called Tianfu and the military forces in the northern areas seek to fight for territory in ancient central China.
There are three characteristics of opening-uppolicies in Sichuan and Central Central Plains, one of which is its own stability.The Tianfu Plain centering Chengduis rich and self-sufficient area from long time ago.It always treats and accepts advanced civilization and various cultures in the course of opening with the spirit of “meeting changes with constancy”. Second, An open-minded political system that uses its own advantages has become a shelter for immigrants and Chinese culture in China’s periodic turmoil of reunification and division, showing “harmony and difference” in local and overall political patterns. The third one is the opening of economy and culture.Both of the wonderfulness of Shu culture and the courage of aspiring after the throne in the young talents of Bashu area have added a splendid page to our nation’s history.
“Jianmen Pass, the most difficult one to pass under heaven; Mount Emei, the most beautiful scenery in the world;Mount Qingcheng,world’s most secluded and quietest place”. From the perspective of tourism, Mount Emei and Mount Qingcheng have set a benchmark for Chinese culture while Shu Dao with richnatural and historicalresources still remain tepid. The key problem is theshort-sighted vision.Our eyesmust not be restricted to Jianmen Pass, but be given a world-wide vision.
Jianmen Shu Dao is not a gateway or a town, but a cultural heritage system. The present development mode lacks the overall concept of the system, isolating every scenic spot from its cultural origin. For example, dozens of old trees in the Cuiyun Gallery are enclosed to be set a natural wonder with ticket to be sold; the tour guides habitually draw up of fake stories of Zhang Fei, a great soldier of Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdom Period, constantly planting trees while garrisoning. The nature of Jianmenguan town is “military town”, but it just has disappeared in the architectural form and commercial form and no more military town could be seen.The slogan of the attraction “Enjoy Jianmen Tofu when visit the Martial Barrier Under All Heaven”completely ignores its own brand advantages.The ancient city of Jiange, regarded as a heavy town on the Sichuan Road in the past, is almost totally neglected.
Shu Dao’s application for the list of world heritage has been placed on the agenda. However, the tourism development of Jianmen Pass still stay at the level of relying on resources.The “four degrees” development idea of cultural route heritage should be used for reference: the degree of height, the degree of richness, the degree of vitality and the degree of high.
The degree of height refers to the breadth of world cultural route heritage. In the United Nations world heritagesystem, cultural route heritage is a new trend.Compared with the of the individualnatural heritage or cultural heritage, the route heritage represents a more complete one in terms of dynamic migration, social, economic and cultural exchange, and has a richer cultural connotation.From the operational level, due to the fact that the heritage declaration requires only one project per country per year, and the cultural route heritage can be connected in tandem with a number of points, the heritage’s scope could be expanded in space.
The degree of richness refers to the “abundance”of landscape corridors. Scenic Byway was first officially put forward by the United States during the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1930.At present, the United States has built more than 80 national or the Pan American scenic byways.The scenic byway plays a very important role in the development of road planning, landscape design, the protection of historic sites and beautiful natural scenery, and promotes the development of local economy.The government of the United States has even set up a specializedNational Scenic BywayAct to protect and inherit these scenic byways, and the Act has organically integrated the trafficvalue, landscape value, recreational value, historical value, cultural value, natural value, cultural relics value, etc.At present, many provinces in our country have begun to pay attention to the landscape value and tourism function of highways. The construction of highway should be closely integrated with the development of tourism and the experience in this aspect is worth summarizing and popularizing.
The degree of vitality refers to the “brand vitality”of the tourist routes. The tourism path represented by Ozark was built and carefully maintained by a large number of volunteers in the 1970s, and is called “hand-made trails”. In this process, millions of American tourists enjoy the pleasure of traveling and personally creating tourist routes. And the government even created a popular festival --“The Day of Path”. The valuable thing is that this path tour has involved a series of world brands covering areas such as clothes, backpacks and tents. Ozark spent more than 20 years to change from a wilderness trail to a world famous scenic spot. However, there has almost emerged no brand or related industry in the tourist lines of Shu Dao.
The degree of height refers to the happinessin the entire journey. When it comes to route, it seems that we are still stuck in a tourist bus ride on the motorway. Even if traveling alone, except for gas stations and toilets, we seem difficult to stop and have recreational activities. Modern transportation means and the traffic information allow visitors to direct their way to their destinations, and the experience on a journey is almost ignored. Think a lot of the ancient times, a spring well, a horse shop, a castle, a cottage, a monk, a monk chanting sutras, a poet reciting poems, a swordsman seeing his solitary shadow, a government officer traveling to a far place. . . . . . Each road has plenty of legend figures and dialogues. Today, the ancient Chinese road is either deserted or full of modern apathy. Contrastingly, in Europe and America,hikinghas become a fashion sport because there are scenic plots and bars for communication on the way.
In the era of cold weapons, “Jianmen Pass is the most difficult one to pass under heaven” has become nothing more than past history.Today, in the modern China, Sichuan and China, and the world, you just need a keyboard, a ticket of airplane or high-speed rail if you want to start a journey to Sichuan or abroad. The future generations need to use their ambition to inherit and develop the impregnable passes that our ancestors left us withmentality and wisdom.