China Guilin City:
1.34 million (urban population: 600,000)
Guilin's scenery is unique?both to China and to the rest of the world. From a lush green plain laced with rivers and lakes suddenly spring steep, rounded towers of stone which loom singly like battlements or fade in ranks toward the horizon. This bizarre range of peaks has caused Guilin to be immortalized in Chinese painting and poetry. The celebrated Tang Dynasty poet Han Yu (768?824) described the region this way: "The river forms a green silk belt, the mountains are like blue jade hairpins." The karst formations were thrust up from the limestone sea bed which covered the region some 300 million years ago. Eroded over centuries by the area's unique wind and water conditions, this "stone forest," with its many subterranean caves and rivers, creates a haunting atmosphere.
Guilin is located between 109 east longitude and 24 north latitude in the northeastern corner of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; in the southwest of the Five Ridges and the west bank of Li River.
Guilin is located in mid-subtropical area with damp monsoon climate; warm and rainy; long frost-free period, plenty of sunshine and clear division of four seasons
The name Guilin translates to "Cassia Tree Forest" because of the abundance of native Cassia trees. In the fall months, this tree releases the most wonderful, sweet fragrance that gentle flows throughout the city for all to enjoy.
The scenery that you will discover in Guilin is among the most beautiful in all of China. The hills are the most magnificent green, the fields colorful, and the pinnacles unique and intriguing. The Li River winds its way through the city, also making a statement. Both sides of the river are lined with many green hills that seem to spring up from the ground as though a crop growing. This entire area is poetic and tranquil.
Most of the larger restaurants offer English menus and traditionally are open in split shifts, starting at 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and then again from 5:30 p.m. to late into the night, depending on the restaurant. You will find what are called "up market restaurants" throughout the city where you can sample some of the traditional dishes served in Guilin. One of the best places is the Guilin Hotel Restaurant. They will provide samples of Chicken Balls with chestnuts as well as some of their other specialties.
Jiulong - Zhongshan Lu - Here you will be served fabulous Cantonese and regional style dishes. Some of the most wonderful items on the menu include taro and pork, chicken with bamboo shots, and succulent smoke duck. You can also order gourmet dishes at this restaurant but for tasting one of these, expect to pay a huge price. Some of the items on the gourmet menu include sea snakes and scorpions.
Longfeng - Lijun Lu - Although the prices at this restaurant are a bit steep, the house specialty of Li River fish, known in Chinese as qui yu, you agree that you get what you pay for. You can choose from having your fish steamed or fried in one piece. Either way, this meal is a chef's masterpiece.
Food Street - Niko Niko Do Plaza (Top Floor) - This is a canteen but do not be fooled by the relaxing and simple atmosphere. The restaurant is clean and well cared for and the snacks, noodles, and tea are good. When you take your seat at the table, you simple take a card, look at the photos and words, choose what you want to eat, and then your card will be stamped accordingly and that is what you will get.
Longxiang Jing - Zhongshan Lu/Jiefang Lu - This canteen is huge the style of food and service would be compared to a fast food restaurant found in Western countries. Instead of ordering a cheeseburger and French fries, here you would order menu items such as buns, dumplings, kebabs, crayfish eggs, and quails on sticks.
Pingquo Gongyuan Fandian - Minzhu Lu - Located close to Elephant Trunk Hill, this restaurant is small but friendly and nice. Generally, the prices are expensive but they do offer a sample meal that is less expensive than other menu items such as eight-piece chicken meal, fish, and snake. Additionally, no English menus are available but the staff will work with you to ensure you get the type of food you want.
Yi Yuan Fandian - Nanhuan Lu - Served here is authentic Sichuanese food. The environment is very nice and the prices reasonable. The staff speaks good English and you will find the menu has a nice variety. Two of the favorite dishes on the menu include the sweet and sour fish, and strange-flavored chicken.
In 1949, Guilin had only a printing press, a few small factories, and some cottage handicrafts. Since then, over 250 factories have been built, now employing a total workforce of about 100,000. Guilin today produces nitrogen fertilizers, spun silk, cotton cloth, tires, medicines, rubber, ma-chinery, and a wide range of other items. Machine?tool manufacturing gained prominence here during the Cultural Revolution and today the city also supplies the country with electronic components, semi?conductors and transistor radios. Since the government decided to develop Guilin as a major tourist attraction in the late 1970s, many of the heavy industries have been moved into outlying regions. Traditional commodities still produced here include wine, bean products, candy, pepper sauce, bamboo chopsticks, and umbrellas.
The agricultural sector has also expanded as a result of the addition of over 2,OX water?control and irrigation projects. Land in this region is naturally arid, because much of the ground water sinks into the deep underground river system. The Guilin area produces an abundance of grain, rice, bamboo, pomelos, and cassia by?products (tea, herbal medicines, fragrant oil, and a flavorful local wine). Fishing and river com-merce are also important to the local economy.
Until the Qin Dynasty (221?206 BC), the town of Guilin was a minor way?station along the Li River. It gained in importance with the con-struction of the Lin Canal in 214 BC. This canal, by linking the Yangtse and Pearl rivers via the Li River, enabled the emperor's supply trains to bypass hazardous mountain trails when provisioning his conquering troops in the south. Today the Lin Canal is used as an irrigation aqueduct.
The first Westerners ever to see Guilin were Portuguese sailors taken prisoner by the Ming government in 1550. In 1644, when the Manchus came to power, the retreating Ming made Guilin their capital. It remained a provincial capital until 1912 and briefly became the national capital again in 1936. In the wake of the Japanese invasion of the 1930s, the exodus of Chinese nationals from northeastern China caused Guilin's population to expand from 100,000 to over one million. Hundreds of Western mission-aries also sought refuge here. During the anti?Japanese war (1937?45), Guilin was a stronghold of resistance and the site of a US air force base. Printing plants, newspapers, hospitals, and even theatrical companies took refuge in the karst caves (the location of some of these caves was not rediscovered until the late 1950s).
The missionaries are gone, along with the other refugees of war. Today, Guilin is a neatly laid out city, with two? and three?storey stucco buildings in place of the huts that formerly lined the riverbanks. Every autumn, the air is redolent with the fragrance of yellow, red, and white cassia blossoms.
More than 20 flights are offered each day connecting Guilin with major cities such as Hong Kong.
The scenery of Guilin has been called the finest under heaven. Situated in the northeast of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin City is South China's shining pearl, with verdant mountains, elegant waters, magnificent crags and fantastic caverns.
Entertainment is diverse in Guilin, offering something for the young and old. The opera and ballad singing are very popular choices of entertainment that dates back hundreds of years. In fact, performance troupes have been formed to travel throughout China, giving award-winning performances.
Theater is also quite popular in Guilin, and if you go down along Jiefang Xi Lu, you will find several great options. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest for theater where you can watch a one-hour show consisting of operatic, acrobatic, variety, or Western-oriented styles.
The nightlife is not huge in Guilin. While you will find a few small bars where you can buy a beer, or a few discos, for the most part, the entertainment focuses more on the Fine Arts. However, if you want to get out on the town to sit back with a cold drink, you could visit the following locations:
Dadu Hui - Yiren Lu/Zhongshan Lu - This club is a disco where you will have the opportunity to dance or just mingle with the locals.
Gogo - Yiren Lu - Typically, a small cover charge will greet you at the door. The crowd often includes trendy Chinese locals or Expat teachers.
Ragazza Pub - Yiren Lu - The beer here is costly but with this being one of the newer bars, you will enjoy the atmosphere and buzz of excitement.
You will not really find any department stores in Guilin but plenty of smaller shops for buying nice gifts or souvenirs to take back home. All around the Mopanshan Dock area are several of the shops where you will discover gems, woodcarving, and bamboo ware.
Other favorite items that both locals and visitors shop for are the juicy and delicious snack of the oranges and Kumquats. In fact, you will find that the local people, especially children who love sweets, will turn to eating these instead of types of candy. When traveling through Guilin, be sure to buy some on one of your shopping outings and you will see for yourself why they are so wonderful.
From Guilin, you can head to the nearby town of Yangshuo where charming boutiques where on the weekend, you can find a wonderful variety of souvenirs as well as traditional Chinese attire. Another great item to buy is the Yangshuo painted fan. They are delicate and beautifully painted with amazing detail. You can choose from several different sizes, and from paper or silk material, each supported with sturdy bamboo supports.
Although all Chinese fans are beautiful, this particular fan goes through a special process that includes dyeing, mounting, and then painting the fan with the traditional lacquer used in China. However, before it can be sold, the local painters will add with detail birds, insects, Chinese girls, and of course, flowers. Just be sure when shopping in the area that you barter hard.
Guilin is also known around the world for it use of spices and chili that is mild and a bit on the sside. One of the local's most popular snacks is bamboo leaves stuffed with swweet eet rice. The flavor is outstanding and you will find different varieties of this snack, each offering something unique and tasty.
Guilin Attractive points:
Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiangbishan)
Situated majestically at the southeast of Guilin city and west bank of Li River, Elephant Trunk Hill is regarded as the symbol of Guilin landscape. Originally named "Li Hill", "Yi Hill" and "Chenshui Hill", the hill has a history of 3.6 hundred million years. Resembling an elephant leisurely sucking water from the river with its long trunk, this hill is famous as Elephant Trunk Hill for hundreds of years.
With an elevation of 200m, the hill towers 55m above the water, measuring 108m in length and 100m in width. Between the trunk and the legs of the elephant is a cave, in the shape of a full moon, penetrating the hill from side to side. People named it "Moon-over-Water Cave". When the waters wave and the moonlight gleams, the scene is exceedingly enchanting. On the walls in and around this cave, over 70 inscriptions from the Tang and Song dynasties were found, praising the beauty of hills and waters nearby.
Halfway up the hill lies another cave, which goes through the hill and serves as the eyes of the elephant, through which visitors can overlook the beautiful scene of Guilin city.
On top of the hill stands a pagoda named Puxian Pagoda. Built in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), it looks like the handle of a sword. In and out of the cave are many carvings and inscriptions, the most well-known of which is a poem by Lu You (1125-1210), one of the four great poets of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279).
Li River Scenery
The Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is the centerpiece of any trip to northeastern Guangxi Province. Gorgeous Karst peaks give you surprises at each bend of the limpid river under the blue sky. Water buffalo patrol the fields, peasants reap rice paddies, school kids and fisherman float by on bamboo rafts. With its breathtaking scenery and taste of a life far removed from the concrete metropolis, the scenery along the Li River become one of China's top tourist destinations.
The trip starts from the dock south of Liberation Bridge in Guilin downtown area. Otherwise some agencies will transport tourist to by a one-hour bus ride to catch the cruise. The river trip is over eighty kilometers (52 miles) long and is estimated to take seven to eight hours. The eye-feasting landscape and country scenery will never disappoint you.
It is a Chinese tradition to divide the long trip into sections (just as the Three gorges along the Yangtze River) and give each peak an imaginative name. Although some take much of your imagination to see what it is like, listening to tour guide's legendary stories behind them is a delightful experience when you are appreciating the landscapes. Most are mystical fairy and love stories. The write choose some of the peaks and places to illustrate below. (They are presented in order of location along the River. You can also refer to our Li River Map to follow them)
Elephant Trunk Hill
Situated majestically on the western bank of Li River, the hill resembles an elephant sucking water from the river with its long trunk. It is supposed to be the landmark of Guilin landscape, which you can find on travel brochures or books. The most impressive is said to be the water reflection of a moon-like cave when the moonlight sprinkles over the river, hence the name "Moon over the Water".
A few minutes down from the Elephant Hill on the west bank is a small hill topped with a pagoda. The hexagonal pagoda is called Longevity Buddha Pagoda (Shoufo Ta) dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is said the second floor has stone Buddha figurines on display and the hill is compassed in Chuanshan Park. In autumn, the hill illuminated with red maples is very charming.
Perching on the northern bank of Li River, the ancient town keeps in its antique style from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A flagging street, lined with old residences, shops and stalls, runs two kilometers along the river bank through the town. Some well-preserved residences hidden behind the street door may give you surprises you when you occasionally explore further into a shop. These are quarters for businessmen in the past times. Have a try on various dumping snacks on the stalls or peddle cars along the street. Some will surprise you with both its taste and cheap price. People in the town are very kind to tourists. Further to south, there is a single-arched bridge in the town named Longevity Bridge.
The town is really a sight off-the-beaten track. Opposite the town on the other side of the river, a millstone-like rock with the running waters creates the scene of Grinding Grain.
Crown Cave (Guanyan)
A crown-like crag earns the hill its name. What makes the hill a worthy stop for both river cruise tourists and those arrive from Guilin City by bus tour is its twelve kilometer long water-eroded cave. It is a wonderland of various stalactite, stone pillars and rock formations in the cave. Since it is open to tourists in 1995, illuminating lights, sound control tour guide system and escalators are equipped in the scenic area and sightseeing cars and boats enable visitors to tour inside the cave. The government plan to build this site as an all-round tourist area including cave visiting, country sightseeing and ethnic minority exploration. It is estimated to become an important excursion site along the Li River. Tourists can stay in the hotels and villas in the scenic area.
Half-Side Ferry (Ban Bian Du)
Not very far from the Crown Cave on the western bank, a huge rock descends into the river and cuts off a footpath by the water edge. Villagers have to take a ferry to reach the other side and continue the way. So, this spot gets its name Half-Side Ferry (for usually ferry means to transport people by boat across a body of water and reach the opposite bank)
From Yangdi to Xingpin
Down stream from Yangdi to Xingpin, the river passes an endless procession of distinct peaks and bamboo groves and the stunning landscape. This part is the highlight of the cruise. Pinnacled peaks pop up and surprise visitors at each bend of the river. Water buffalos patrol on the fields; ducks paddle in the waters; peasants reap paddies in front of village houses; fishermen use the cormorants to catch the fish and return them to the boat and kids go home singing songs. All these create an idyllic and beautiful scene of the life removed from concrete cities.
A reputed attraction is Mural Hill, a 100-meter-high cliff face, which has been weathered and has stratified rock surface in various shades of colors. It is rumored that the colors present nine horses and a person who can identify them out is considered smart. Legendary stories are given to hill rocks and peaks and it is a delightful experience to appreciate the stunning landscape while listening to tour guide's interpretation of the stories behind it.
Reed Flute Cave (Lu Di Yan)
With its location five kilometers northwest of the downtown of Guilin, the Reed Flute Cave is a brilliant cave marked on almost all travel itineraries. The cave got its name from the verdant reeds growing outside it, with which people make flutes. Inside this water-eroded cave is a spectacular world of various stalactites, stone pillars and rock formations created by carbonate deposition. Illuminated by colored lighting, the fantastic spectacle is found in many variations along this 240-meter-long cave. Walking through the serried stone pillars, tourists feast their eyes on changing spots, feeling they are in a paradise where the Gods live.
Tourists enter the cave and then take a U-shaped sight-seeing route to see different spots, whereupon they exit it from another cave quite near the entrance one. One trip lasts about one hour. It is a Chinese habit to give each formation a legendary or poetic name such as Crystal Palace, Dragon Pagoda, Virgin Forest, Flower and Fruit Mountain and other interesting names. For some of these names, you need to use your imagination, but the story behind each is quite fun. It's a pleasure to listen to romantic or fairy tales whilst appreciating the fantastic stone formations. Both the stories and the lighting add mystery to the scene. Although there are different kinds of lighting inside, you are not supposed to take photos unless you are a professional photographer, because the light inside is not sufficient for exposure. At some spots, such as the Crystal Palace or Flower and Fruit Mountain, special photography is offered at 20 yuan for one picture. (They use special equipment to provide enough illumination.) Some 70 inscriptions on the cave wall are said to be travelogues and poems derived from the Tang Dynasty, which made the cave a popular tourist site at that time.
A park is built for the cave with zigzag path, elegant pavilions, ponds, bridges, plants and other garden structures.
Fubo Hill (Wave-Subduing Hill)
With half of the hill stretching into the river, Fubo Hill, which is 120 meters long, 60 meters wide and 213 meters high, stands on its own to the northeast of the city, on the west bank of the Li River. The waves of the river are turned back when they meet the stone blocks of the hill, hence the name "wave-subduing hill".
On the southern slope of the hill is Pearl-Returning Cave (huanzhu dong). Legend has it that the cave was once illuminated by a pearl, and inhabited by a dragon. One day, a fisherman stole the pearl, but overcome by shame, he finally returned it.
Inside the cave, a rock named Sword-Testing
Rock hangs from the ceiling, nearly touching the ground. According to legend, a General named Fubo once tested his sword by cutting what was originally a stone pillar and has left a gap at the bottom.
At the end of the cave is Thousand-Buddha Cave, where over 200 Buddha carved stone statues of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) were kept. On the western side, a flight of steps leads to Kuishui Pavilion and then to the top of the hill. From there, one has a bird's-eye view of the Li River.
On the eastern side of the hill are a winding path, a teahouse and the Tingtao Pavilion ("Listening to the Waves Pavilion") built along the edge of the hill.
Seven Stars Park (Seven star Cave)
Cross the Li River at the end of Jiefang Donglu (Jiefang Road, East) and approximately one kilometre from the downtown area of Guilin you will find Seven Stars Park. This delightful park that has been landscaped to encompass hills and natural waterways is a great favourite with the local people and tourists alike.
The park takes its name from the fact that the four peaks on Putuo Hill and the three peaks on Crescent Hill that form the main part of the park replicate the pattern of the seven stars in the Ursa Major constellation (Great bear or Big Dipper). A further hill, known as Camel Hill is another attraction of the park. This limestone outcrop looks exactly like a camel resting among the trees. The main entrance to the park is over the Flower Bridge [Hua Qiao], an elegant arched structure dating from the Song Dynasty that crosses the confluence of Xiaodongjiang [East River] and Lingjian Stream that passes through the park.
As you walk into the park you will find Crescent Hill to your right, so named for its crescent-moon shaped rock. A notable feature of this hill is the 200 calligraphy carvings in the caves within it. These are said to be the work of important and talented calligraphers of the Tang, Ming and Qing Dynasties. A flight of steps will take you to the top of the hill. Pavilions, kiosks and towers line the path, each offering excellent views of the Xiaodongjiang River.
By choosing the path to the left and heading north you will come to Putuo Hill. Climbing the steps will bring you to Putuo Jingshe. This is both a living and preaching place and the tortoise intertwined with the snake in this hall is a typical Chinese Taoist symbol.
On leaving Putuo Jingshe a further two-minute walk leads to Seven Stars Cave. Eroded by water over thousands of years, the cave is a wonderland of stalactites, stone pillars and rock formations resulting from carbonate deposition. All year, the temperature within the cave remains at a constant 20 degrees Celsius and it has been a tourist attraction since the Tang Dynasty. However, for all its splendour, the Seven Stars Cave is overshadowed by the awe-inspiring Reed Flute Cave to be found five kilometres to the northwest of the City. There is an admission charge of 20 Yuan to enter the caves.
On leaving Putuo Hill and walking further eastwards into the park Camel Hill is a wow of a sight. Being so like a camel, as our picture shows, it is hard to believe that it is an entirely natural formation. Near to Camel Hill you will find a zoo, a botanical garden and teahouses.
Solitary Beauty Peak
Solitary Beauty Peak (Duxiu Peak) stands in solitary grace at the center of the ancient Mansion of Prince Jingjiang (a noble family in the Ming Dynasty). Towering from the ground with an elevation of 216 meters, it is reputed as "Sky-Supporting Pillar in the South". During the Southern Dynasty (420-589), some 1500 years ago, Yan Yanzhi, governor of Guilin, wrote the line: "none can surpass this solitary peak in beauty." hence the name Solitary Beauty Peak.
At the foot of the peak are Dushu (Study) Rock, Taiping (Peace) Rock and Yueya (Crescent) Pond. On the eastern side of the hill there are many inscriptions from the Qing dynasty, such as "Southern Sky-supportingPillar" and "Purple Gown and Golden Belt." A flight of 396 stone steps leads from the west foot of the hill up to the top, where you can get a panoramic view of the whole city and all the mountains surrounding it.
In ancient time, about 2,000 years ago Ling Canal is an irrigation canal. The canal was once an important means of transports serving the region before railways and roads were constructed. Now this canal still serves it purposes by irrigating about 2700 hectare of agricultural lands.
Looking at the way that the canal been constructed brings to our thought on the wisdom achieved by the ancient peoples in the engineering fields employed in the construction of dam and embankment. Dams were mainly made of woods and stones. Studies revealed that logs were first pile and stacks up in the water to stabilize the ground. Thereafter, slabs of stone were placed against the logs to form an embankment. Each stone slab has a groove cut into it for an iron bar to slot through it to joint up each slab together to form a continuous embankment, which stretches for five hundred meters in length.
The most interesting section of the canal is the Doumen (Steep Gates) section, which is just like the boatlift in the Gezhouba Dam. Tourists were usually taken to see this section of the channel, which stretches from the Canal Mouth
Village at the north to the river mouth in the south, which has a seven-meter water passage lift. All in thirty-six steep gates were built in order for boats to pass through from one section of the canal to another section of canal. Earliest records on the building of these gates date back to the Tang Dynasty. Gates at that time were made of woods and later stones slab were introduced to fortify it during the Ming Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty, 18 gates were built and then it has doubled to 36 numbers of gates between the periods of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Tombs of Prince Jingjiang
Located in an eastern suburb, seven kilometers from Guilin City, this is an imperial mausoleum site where eleven princes of the Jingjiang Family during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) are buried. The Jingjiang Family is comprised of the descents of King Jingjiang, the nephew of a Ming emperor. During the earlier Ming period, to strengthen the centralization of state power, Ming Emperor Taizu (the first Ming emperor) designated his 24 sons as kings to administer different areas in China. King Jingjiang got his title and built his palace at the foot of Solitary Beauty Peak. The descendent kings chose this mausoleum site as their burial place.
The site is enclosed by a rectangular red wall. More than 300 tombs are spread over 100 square kilometers. Like most Chinese mausoleums, a grand sacred way leads to the inner palace with various animal and official stone statues on each side. There are three routes on the sacred way. The middle one is exclusive for the emperors while the other two on each side are for officials. At the end of the sacred way inside the inner palace are
Xian Dian (Prayer Hall) and Bao Cheng (Treasure City). Religious and ancestral prayers are held in Xian Dian and Bao Cheng is the resting place for the kings.
The one tomb open to the public is that of the third king and his consort. Excavated items include gold, silver, jade, pottery, porcelain and other antiques. Among them is a precious, elegant porcelain vase.