Liangzhou Ci

Liangzhou Ci can best be translated as Frontier Songs. (Similar to America’s Western Ballads of the 19th century — Streets of Laredo and Home on the Range being a couple of examples.) They were lyrical poems set to music. The subject being the life of soldiers on China’s western frontier. Other Tang poets including Li Bai and Wang Zhihuan wrote poems under the title, Liangzhou Ci.

Liangzhou, itself, is a place name, an oasis on the Silk Route in western Gansu province. It was a border town, from which the Silk Route continued until reaching Chang’an, the capital of the Tang dynasty.

West of Liangzhou is Yumen Pass, which is also the subject of many Liangzhou poems. It was even more desolate than Liangzhou, as it was 600 miles further west.

Liangzhou Ci poems were written during the reign of the Emperor Xuanzong when the Tang dynasty was at its height. These poems spanned a brief time, roughly the first half of the 8th century, ending in 751, when the Tang army was defeated by the combined forces of Tibet and an Arab Caliphate at the Battle of Talas (in modern Kyrgyzstan). Four years later, the devastating An Lushan Rebellion began.