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The Guilin Karst component is one the South China Karst, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It is located within Lijiang National Park and contains fenglin (tower) and fengcong (cone) karst formations. Guilin Karst is divided into two sections: the Putao Section with an area of 2,840 hectares and a buffer zone of 21,610 hectares and the Lijiang Section with an area of 22,544 hectares and a buffer zone of 23,070 hectares.

“Guilin Karst is considered the best known example of continental fenglin and provides a perfect geomorphic expression of the end stage of karst evolution in South China. Guilin is a basin at a relatively low altitude and receives abundant allogenic (rainfed) water from surrounding hills, leading to a fluvial component that aids fenglin development, resulting in fenglin and fengcong karst side-by-side over a large area. Scientific study of karst development in the region has resulted in the generation of the ‘Guilin model’ of fengcong and fenglin karst evolution. Shibing Karst provides a spectacular fengcong landscape, which is also exceptional because it developed in relatively insoluble dolomite rocks.


Guilin (400 kilometers northwest of Guangzhou (Canton) and 300 kilometers of Nanning) is located at the center of area filled with spectacular and unusual limestone rock formations. The subject of many classical silkscreen scrolls, great Chinese poems and tourist brochures, the formations are one of China's most well-known attractions. You can't really climb or hike on the formations. They main way to enjoy them is to look at them.

There is a saying in China that the mountains and waters of Guilin are the best under heaven. As far as the eye can see in all directions are limestone formations riddled with caves, covered with lush vegetation and shaped like animals, mythical beasts and other objects. Weaving through the cliffs and rocks are placid rivers and streams surrounded by a patchwork of farms, rice paddies, villages and ponds. The otherworldly beauty of the region was showcased in the movie the Joy Luck Club .

The Guilin (formerly spelled Kweilin) area is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. But Guilin city itself isn't all that great. It is fairly big city with 4.8 million people. The Communists transformed it from a large market town into a small industrial center. Although it is nicer than some Chinese cities. It is still noisy, dirty and drab. Today Guilin functions primarily as a gateway to the surrounding scenery. Tourists flood the city by the thousands and preying on them are numerous touts and opportunists offering tours, rooms and souvenirs. You are much better off heading to Yangshuo, about an hour and a half away.

Pat Eaton-Robb of Associated Press wrote: Guilin is “a popular and growing tourist destination, with new roads, hotels and other buildings under construction.“The government is building a canal that will allow tourists to take a boat and avoid a bumpy bus ride to another popular spot, Reed Flute Cave, one of several limestone caves in the region. This one features colorful, if somewhat garish, light displays on the stalactite and stalagmite formations, in addition to lasers that make designs on the cave’s ceiling and a bubble machine.” [Source: Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, July 5, 2012]

Guilin means "City of Osthmanus Trees" and the city produces syrupy and medicine-tasting osthmanus wine. Guilin used to be the capital of Guangxi (Nanning now is) and home of the Jingjiang Princes. According to “Cities of the World”: The Chinese call it a "city of culture" because of the great numbers of celebrated artists and intellectuals who congregated here during the Japanese aggression. It is an ancient community, founded during the Qin Dynasty of the third century B.C. Silk is a major export of Guilin. During World War II, an American air base was established here, first in 1944 and, after a devastating attack by the Japanese, again in 1945. [Source: “Cities of the World,” Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a December 1996 U.S. State Department report]

Tourist Offices at the airport, near the main bus station, at the entrance of Seven Star Park and near the Lize Bridge. Guilin Tourist Information Center, 14 North Ronghu, Diecai District. Guangxi Province tel. (86)-773-280-0318.Also try Guilin Tourism Bureau, 14 North Ronghu Rd, 541001 Guilin, Guangxi, China, tel. (0)-773-282-5890, fax: (0)- 773-282-9111 Web Sites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ;China Highlights China Highlights Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Maps of Guilin: ;
Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books;

Getting to Guilin

Getting to Guilin is easier than it used to be. The Guangzhou-Guilin fast train covers the distance of 433 kilometers (269 miles) between the two cities in 2.5 -3.5 hours. There are about 50 pairs of high speed trains running between Guangzhou and Guilin in each direction each day. The ticket price is about CNY 200 for a second class seat. The slower overnight sleeper trains take 11 hours, with a hard sleeper costing about the same as a fast train ticket. Flying is fairly easy and cheap. The bus trip from Guangzhou (Canton) is long and uncomfortable.

The fastest trains between Guilin and Manning are the G and D series which take about two and a half hour. There is only one each of the T train and Z train from Nanning to Guilin. The Z train takes about five hours and the T train takes about four hours. There are currently two trains running between Xian and Guilin. One of them is high speed trains that covers the 1,930-kilometers distance in 11 hours, The slower train takes more than twice as long.

Two high-speed G trains operate between Beijing West and Guilin North railway Stations, They take about 11 hours and depart early in the morning and arrive at night. There is only one high speed train from Guilin to Shanghai, departing at 11:45am, and arriving nine and half hours later at at 9:15pm. Some normal trains are also available to run from Guilin to Shanghai, but they take 8 more hours than high speed trains. Check out Travel China Guide : Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sightseeing in Guilin

One how to make the most of a short visit to Guilin, on traveler wrote in CRI: Start with a trip to Elephant Trunk Hill. Situated on the west bank of the River Li, this picturesque hill rises 55 meters above the surface level, and features a curving rock pillar that resembles a giant elephant's trunk. Take a bamboo raft out onto the water for the best view, then go into the park by Elephant Trunk Hill and walk along Water Moon Cave, read inscriptions dating back to the Tang Dynasty, and reach the Puxian Pagoda dedicated to the bodhisattva of universal benevolence. [Source: CRI, June 18, 2009]

“Go northeast to the stunning karst landscape around Solitary Beauty Peak. Climb the "Sky-Supporting Pillar of the South" to get a panoramic view of Guilin and its surrounds. Back at the foot of the peak, explore the weird shaped rocks and stalactite-laden grottoes. Then head back to town and find a good restaurant for lunch. Guilin cuisine is often said to be a blend of Hunan-and Cantonese-style cooking. Local specialties are as strangely-named as the city's sights-you can choose try some Thick Bamboo Tube Fish, Lipu Taro Buckle Meat or some Horse's Hoof Cake.

“Spend the greater part of the afternoon wandering around the 120-hectare Seven Stars Park on the east bank of the Li. Walk its trails through graceful mountain and serene valleys, and explore its numerous cultural and historical spots. Not-to-be-missed spots are Putou Mountain, Seven Stars Cave, Camel Hill and the Guihai Stele Forest.

“For dinner, enjoy Guilin's best specialty dish. And this one is more recognizable to the Western eye, too. Roasted Suckling Pig can be sampled at many of the city's restaurants, but if you want to eliminate any chance of disappointment, try it in the Guilin Sheraton by the River Li. Then watch the sun go down over a cocktail or a jasmine tea in the lounge.

“Visit the enchanting Dreamland Theater on Qixing Lu, venue for the Dreamland Li River drama, based on a local fairytale. Nightly performances start at 7:00pm. Bring yourself back down to earth with some drinks and live music at Baidu Yu Le, a European-style bar on Binjiang Lu, before heading for heaven once again among the local clubbers at the Fire Phoenix Disco Club in Hotel Universal on Jiefang Donglu.”

Sights in Guilin

Guilin used to governed by Jingjiang Princes. The old princes' residence is open to the public. There are rock formations in and around Guilin but there settings are often less than tranquil. The market is filled with all kinds of caged birds and turtles, kites, pot holders, aprons, napkins, fans, carved salad bowls, handmade glasses, silver boxes, puppets, masks.

Piled Festoon Hill (on the Li River north of Guilin) is a green hill with exposed limestone cliffs that look like dangling chains. Some of the hill's main features include Windy Cave, Crane Peak and Bright Moon Peak which has a little pavilion sitting on the top of it that can be reached by foot. Tourist have been coming here for 1000 years and many inscriptions and sculptures, including 90 cliff statues, have been left behind.

Piled Festoon Hill (Diecai Hill) is one of the most popular attractions in Guilin. Featuring amazing scenery and exquisite stone carving, it consists of four small hills: Yuyue Hill, Siwang Hill, Bright Moon Peak and Crane Peak. The Wind Cave is famous for changing the temperature of the wind that blows in from outside. All year, whatever the weather or season, you can always get a cool breeze inside the cave. The location also features delicate rock carvings found inside and outside the cave. The highest peak of Diecai Hill, the Bright Moon Peak, is an excellent place to for a bird's eye view of the gorgeous Lijiang River Hours Open: 8:00am-6:30pm; Admission: 35 yuan for the park; 30 yuan for Seven-Star Cave; Getting There: Bus No. 6, 10, 11, 13, 14 and free bus No. 58

Yaoshan Mountain Scenic Zone (in the eastern suburbs of Guilin) is the highest mountain in the urban area of Guilin. It is so called because of the Yaodi Temple built in the ancient times on the mountain.. The scenic zone is famous for its changing and glorious scenes in different seasons. Visitors can get to the mountain top by taking the sightseeing cableway. From the mountain top, visitors can see in paddy fields, village houses, and beautiful Karst scenes surrounded by mists and clouds. When descending the mountain, visitors can take the chute to pass through the sea of flowers and trees and experience the fantastic feeling of flying on the ground.

Reed-Flute Cave (south of Guangming Hill in Guilin) is a half-mile-long stalactite and stalagmite cave with multi-colored lights and formations with names like Lion and Forest Under the Glow of Dawn, Singing Birds, Fragrant Flowers, Wild Lion Roaring Goodby to His Guests and Flying Waterfall from the Gorge. In one section stunning pillars and chandeliers that hang from the roof of the cave are perfectly reflected in the smooth surface of an underground pool. The cave was discovered by a man digging a well.

Some find Reed-Flute Cave to be unbearably tacky. In Riding the Iron Rooster, Paul Theroux wrote, "It looked Disneyish, a piece of natural vulgarity — a tasteless act of God. It could have been made of polyester or papier-mâché. It dripped. It glugged. Chunks of slimy limestone dropped from the ceiling. It was a spelunkers version of Sunset Strip or the Shanghai Bund." The Zhuangzu region around the cave is filled with caves and karst formations.

Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill (at the confluence of the Li River and Yangjiang River on the west side of the Li and the southern side of Guilin) is rock hill with hole in it that dips into the river like an elephant taking a drink. The hole is known as Water Moon Arch and although it is only a few meters high tourist boats go right through it. Inside the arch are more than 50 sculptures. Nearby a small path leads to the hour glass shaped Precious Bottle Tower which sits at the top of the hill.

Made up of pure limestone deposited at the sea bottom 360 million years ago, Elephant Trunk Hill is 100 meters tall and is a natural masterpiece of the Karst landform. In the scenic zone, there are over 50 stone carvings on the cliffs, some of which are works of famous poets. The most famous image in the scenic zone is the Water-and-Moon Cave, which together with its reflection in the water is just like a full moon floating on the river.

Pat Eaton-Robb of Associated Press wrote: “With some imagination” the rock “ resembles an elephant drinking from the river. On the top of the hill is a pagoda that dates back to the Ming dynasty. The park is a popular spot for young couples who stroll along the river and add their padlocks or wish ribbons, signifying lasting love, to an ornamented tree. Vendors along the riverside sell some interesting food, including fried bugs on a stick. [Source: Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, July 5, 2012]

Elephant-Trunk Hill (Xiangbi Shan) is a symbol of Guilin. Moon-over-Water Cave is located between the "nose" and the "leg" of the hill, which looks extremely gorgeous when the moonlight gleams. The Puxian Pagpda, built in Ming Dynasty, stands on the top of the hill Hours Open: 6:30am- 6:00pm (low season); 6:00am-18:30pm (high season) Admission: 40 yuan; Getting There: take bus No. 57 and 58 or take free bus No. 2, 16, 23 and 88

Qixing (Seven Stars) Cave

Seven Star Cave (halfway up the slope of Putuo Mountain in Guilin) is the largest and most fascinating cave in the Guilin area. A tourist attraction since A.D. 600, it contains several caverns. The main one is a 1,000-meter-long tunnel festooned with 40 major stalactite formations such as Water Overflowing the Golden Mountain, Palace of Immense Cold, and Two Lions Fighting For a Ball. Over the centuries many poems and inscriptions have been left behind on the cave's wall by scholars.

Seven Stars Park (Qixing Gongyuan) covers about two square kilometers on the eastern bank of the Lijiang River. The park is named after the four peaks of Putuo Hill and the three peaks on Crescent Hill. Sights to explore are Seven Star Cave (Qixing Yan) for its cavernous chambers where colorful spotlights point out strangely shaped stalactites and stalagmites, and the rock structure of Camel Hill (Luotuo Shan).

The layout of seven peaks is similar to that of the Big Dipper. That is how the park got its name Qixing (Seven Stars). Qixing Cave has over ten connecting cave halls. In the caves are stalactites, stalagmites, columns, limestone veils and other rocks of different shapes.

Near Guilin

Outside of Guilin is the beautiful natural scenery of the Lijiang River landscape and the unique Karst landform around it along with green mountains, fascinating caves, bucolic countryside, dense forests, tranquil valleys, swiftly running streams, waterfalls, terraced rice fields and colorful ethnic villages. lifestyles and customs. Guilin's karst peaks are scattered about the city limits, with the greatest concentration near the Lijiang River. The region’s cultural heritage dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) and includes Lingqu Canal in Xing’an and the Confucius Temple in Gongcheng.

Big Dragon Pool (near Liuzhou, 160 kilometers from Guilin) is an underground river that comes gushing out of a limestone hill and then disappears again. Poets used to come here to pray for rain. Behind the pool are seven peaks called the "Seven Lady Peaks" which form a circle. Yufeng Hill, also located in this area, is a 250-meter-high hill, with rock caves. Inside the caves are 50 dragon pools which drain into the Liu River through rock crevasses. The area around Liuzhou has limestone formations similar to those in Guilin but less impressive.


Yangshuo (65 kilometers south of Guilin City) in the view of many is the best place to check out the Guilin area Karst formations. Situated on the shore of the Li River, it used to be a charming budget traveler town with lots of guesthouses and restaurants that sell muesli, banana pancakes and beer. Now the former farming village is a swollen, bustling tourist town, with bars, souvenir shops and more than 300 hotels.

Yangshuo has traditionally been a market center and county seat on the Li River. Many tourists arrive as part of Li River boat tours and show up in town to embark on a more laid back and informal tour. Four Karst peaks are located in the town and its periphery: Dragon Head Hill, Crab Hill, House Hill, and Green Lotus Peak. There are boat and bus connections to Guilin. Bicycles can be rented in Yangshuo.

Yangshuo is a good base for exploring Guilin Karst area. One can enjoy the scenery on a boat, on food or on bicycle. Outside of town are rustic lodges surrounded by karst peaks and views of the Yulong River. Peaceful, lazy bamboo raft rides are a great way to take in the scenery.

Tourist Office: There are several CITS offices in town, tel. 86- (0)-773-280-0318. The small town tourist office is at West Street, Chengzhou Road tel. 86- (0)-773-280-7922. Web Sites: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat Yangshuo Mountain Retreat ;China Backpacker China Backpacker Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Maps of Yangshuo: ;

Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books;

Getting There: Yangshuo is accessible by bus and minibus from Guilin. Buses and minibuses can most easily be caught in Guilin at the South railway station and the long distance bus station. Yangshuo is also a stop on buses that travel between Guilin and Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Another alternative is to take a cruise on the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sights in the Yangshuo Area

West Street (Xi Jie) is a pedestrian zone lined with bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. Said to be more than 1,400 years old, the street features buildings in both traditional folk as well as foreign styles. The locals call it "foreigners' street" because of the many foreigner tourists shopping on this street. Most of the shopkeepers are very enthusiastic and can speak English, and the stores boast various kinds of specialty and cultural goods, including craftworks, paintings and calligraphy and backpacks.

The scenery around the town is stunning. Surrounding it are ten limestone peaks that some say look like a lotus flower. They are interspersed with houses, farms, stands of trees and streams. Well known spots include Moon Hill, Pageboy Hill, Green Lotus Peak, Dragon Back Hill, White Crane Hill, Old Ferry Under the Banyan Tree, Beautiful Girl Hill, Crab Hill and Laixan Hill." Each scenic spot has unique characteristics, which vary with the changing seasons. Admission: Mountains of the Moon: 30 yuan; Gurong Park: 40 yuan; Totem Ancient Road: 90 yuan; Butterfly Spring: 90 yuan; Julong Pond: 90 yuan; Bilian Peak: 50 yuan; Xanadu: 80 yuan; Tel: +86-0773-8822411 (Yaoshuo Tourist Administration)

A popular night show is "Impressions Liu Sanjie," directed by award-winning Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou. The production features more than 600 performers on the Lijiang River wearing a variety of costumes, some of which light up for some interesting effects. While visually stunning, the show has no English translation for its songs, but it's the overall impression that counts. Be prepared for crowds and low-back seats that can get uncomfortable.

On his visit as part of a Li River tour, Pat Eaton-Robb of Associated Press wrote: ““Passengers disembark on Market Street in Yangshuo, where the fishermen will try to get you to pay to pose with their cormorants. The street is lined with vendors selling everything from “real fake” Rolex watches, to T-shirts, silk scarves and jade. Every price is negotiable, and bartering becomes a sport.Bicycles or cabs can be rented in town for a drive into the countryside to the local caves, hiking trails and rice farms, some of which offer guided tours. The farm we visited was run by two elderly brothers who opened their home and offered shots of what they called “medicine wine.” It was basically moonshine fermented in a jar filled with snakes, scorpions and other creepy crawlers. Tasty. [Source: Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, July 5, 2012]

“There is no boat back to Guilin, which is about an hour away by bus. But for those who choose to stay in Yangshuo for the evening, there is the opportunity to take in a spectacular opera-style light and music show put on by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, the man responsible for the opening ceremony in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 90-minute show, Impressions Liu Sanjie, is based on a famous movie about a local singer. It includes more than 600 performers and incorporates stories and music from four minority ethnic groups in the region. It takes place outdoors on a lake in a 3,000-seat amphitheater surrounded by the hills, which become the backdrop for the performance. The show, much like the region, leaves a lasting impression.”

Activities in Yangshuo

The Yangshuo area is a great place to explore on foot and by bicycle. Bicycles (the typical Chinese ones are often stronger than the mountain bikes) can be rented for around US$5 a day at several places. A popular ritual is bring a bike along on a river trip, getting off, and bicycling back to town As for hiking routes, just start walking in the direction of some nice rock formation and remember how to get back. There are plenty of guides that will take you to the scenic spots. They roam around with photo albums.

Visitors can engage in rock climbing or go caving. A word of caution: Use common sense when it comes to taxi drivers who might try to take you for a detour or overcharge you. Verify the legitimate tours for the Lijiang River. Your hotel can help with bookings or check an office of China International Travel Service Ltd.

According to the Shanghai Daily: “Taking a cormorant fishing tour is a bit touristy since the real deal takes place later on at night, but it's a fascinating glimpse into an older way of life. A boat will take you out around 7:30pm for about an hour to watch a fisherman and his tamed birds in action. The birds-not attached to the boat-with the assistance of a spotlight will dive into the water to surface with flapping fish. The fisherman has tied a string around the bird's neck in order to keep the larger fish for himself and pulls the bird back onto the boat after a catch. [Source: Shanghai Daily February 28, 2009]

“During the day, biking in Yangshuo is the best way to take in the rural beauty of the remote area. Part of the adventure is getting lost among the rice paddies and discovering small villages. For those who lack basic Mandarin skills or can't stand getting lost, it might be best to hire a guide. Bike riders usually make a stop at Moon Hill (Yueliang Shan), a crescent-shaped arch formation. There are incredible views of the Lijiang River valley from the top. The stairs may look intimidating, but climbing only takes about half an hour. A full-day bike trip could follow the Yulong River to see the Double Flow Crossing (Shuangliu Du), Xiangui Bridge, Rhinoceros Lake (Xinlu Hu) and Dragon Bridge (Yulong Qiao).”

Rock Climbing in the Yangshuo Area

Yangshuo has fast emerged as the top climbing playground in Asia. "Only in 2004 did the area begin to become known," Simon Dilks, manager of China Climb, told the China Daily, "That's when more experienced climbers started coming and publishing their experiences in magazines and guidebooks; this generated a lot of interest." [Source: China Daily March 13, 2009]

The China Daily reported: “Paul Collis, a resident of Hong Kong, is a veteran Yangshuo climber. He had been going to Yangshuo to climb for some time, and then in 2003 he made some sketches of the climbing routes for a friend who was visiting. And that gave him the idea to publish a guidebook called Rock Climbing Yangshuo in 2003. The first edition featured some 50 climbs and the book is now in its eighth edition, with 400 climbing routes. Every year, it sells 300-400 copies. "I don't really make any money out of the guidebook," he told me. "But it does pay for a couple of trips up to Yangshuo each year."

“There are other places in China that arguably offer rock that's more varied and challenging, and settings that are more spectacular, particularly places in Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet and Xinjiang. But Yangshuo is stealing the show thanks to its 20-year history of welcoming travelers. It's the most accessible destination in China for independent foreign travelers, offering accommodation across all ranges, an eclectic array of restaurants with English menus and English-speaking tourism service providers. It also has some sophisticated cafes and bars.

“In terms of climbing, it now has all sports climbing routes, across all levels of difficulty, as well as unlimited traditional climbing possibilities to satiate the fussiest of professional climbers. At the lower end, for example, there is the rock face called The Wine Bottle, consisting of 20 routes for beginner and intermediate-level climbers. There are classical and memorable climbs, particularly The Thumb, a karst mountain that's akin to a rocky pillar or pinnacle: It offers a 111-meter-high, 5-pitch climb that rewards the climber with a view of hundreds of karst mountains rising in a fantasy landscape.

“Yangshuo rose to new heights in 2003 with the "discovery" of a cliff called White Mountain where 33 climbing routes have been charted. It's a cliff that's 60 meters high and 200 meters wide, and slants outwards as it rises, challenging even the most skillful and experienced climbers. As rock climbing grows in popularity, so does the culture associated with it. Climbers feel a strong sense of belonging, and now there is a climber's caf and bar in Yangshuo town. It's run by China Climb, and it serves as a hangout where climbers can share stories, talk about the routes they like or dislike, and generally socialize. It's even got an artificial climbing wall. "It's also the place where dedicated climbers can find information and climbing partners," says Dilks, the manager.

“China Climb — whose customers have grown from less than 50 in 2004 to about 1,500 in 2008last year — caters mostly to students of international schools who visit on class-organized trips. "Most clients are foreigners," says Dilks. "I think a lot of Chinese people still look upon rock climbing as a dangerous sport, and are not into it as much as foreigners. We do get a few Chinese, mostly people in their 20s and 30s who are open to try new things." But the interest among the Chinese is growing, as was evident at the 2008 last year's Rock Climbing Festival. The fest was organized by North Face and Black Diamond, two companies that produce outdoor sports gear, and the three-day event brought together a couple of hundred climbers for competition and camaraderie.”

Outside Inn: Yangshuo’s Farm Retreat

Outside Inn (four kilometers from Yangshuo) is a farm retreat set by a Dutchman named Herbert Bloembergen in the early 2000s. According to the inn’s website: It “is a very friendly small guesthouse with a unique character, located in a set of traditional farmhouses, renovated into rooms with western standards. The houses are built with 'Adobe' mud bricks, which give them their typical yellow color. The walls are about 40 cm thick maintaining the interior relatively cool in summer and warm in winter.

“Close to this complex of farmhouses is our new building with more modern family suites and mountain view rooms. The unique character of the Outside Inn is reflected in our rooms. We are embedded in the famous Karst mountains and surrounded by old worldly China that has inspired people for centuries. Yangshuo's famous outdoor activities start right at our front door.”

Among the activities are a Cooking School, Evening Light Show, Fan Painting, Tai Chi & Kung Fu workshops, Bamboo rafting, Moon Hill Hike, Farmers' Market, Biking, Climbing, Caving, Hiking. Day Tours: Tour 1: Yulong River Bamboo Rafting & Moon Hill, Tour 2: Full Day Countryside Biking, Tour 3: Full Day Culture And Nature, Tour 4: Cormorant Fishing, Tour 5: Longji Rice Terraces, Tour 6: Make Your Own Fan - Family Tour.

According to the China Daily: “in 2003, the remote cluster of nine farmhouses in Chaolong village, outside of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region's Yangshuo town, had largely been abandoned, as villagers opted for new abodes along a newly paved road. Bloembergen says he had to finalize deals with the homeowners of this ghost town, and then repeat this process again and again with their brothers, cousins and increasingly distant relatives. "I think I only managed to get all these people to agree because they all thought I was crazy," he says. [Source: China Daily, June 22, 2009]

“The retreat is tucked in a rural tract of land that undulates with cave-pocked karsts scattered among patchworks of shimmering rice paddies. It's a magnificent landscape inhabited by friendly farmers, skittering chickens and plodding water buffaloes. Bloembergen discovered Chaolong while working as a guide for a Dutch travel agency, a job he took after quitting his software consultancy position in the Netherlands to start afresh in China in 1999. When one of his aimless bicycling trips led him to the cluster of farmhouses, he knew it was a special place.But Bloembergen says it took a while to get people to travel to, and stay in, Chaolong. Soon after he began renovating the village, government officials, business people and other VIPs from Yangshuo began flocking to Chaolong to see what the Dutchman was doing with these dilapidated, remote farmhouses....Today, establishments emulating the Outside Inn model are popping up in the surrounding countryside and are attracting more guests, Bloembergen says. The Dutchman says his relationship with the village is "very good" but not without snags.”

Lijiang River

Originating in the Mao'er mountains in Xing'an County, the Lijiang River flows southeast for 437 kilometers through Guilin City and Yangshuo to the Gongcheng Estuary in Pingle County. It is one popular destinations for travelers visiting the Guilin area from around the world. Since the Lijiang River is beautiful in all weather conditions, there is no special season to visit The river is called both the Li River and Lijiang River. The former is probably better as “jiang” means “river.” Photos : Guilin China

In the countryside along the river are bamboo forests, water buffalo, farms, rice paddies, and villages. In the river, fisherman get around in sampans, narrow fishing boats and raft-like boats made from bamboo and poled through the shallow water by a standing fisherman.Cormorant fishing is done on the Li River around Guilin and Yangshuo. Cormorant fishing tours can be arranged in both places.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Lijiang River starts from Mao'er Mountain. The section of the river from the confluence of the Darong River to Pingle is the Lijiang River. It flows through Guilin and Yangshuo with a total length of 116 kilometers and a catchment area at its upper reaches of 2,860 square kilometers. The Guilin Scenic Zone has a long history. As far back as seven or eight thousand years ago, primitive men lived here in the manner of matrilineal communes. In 214 B.C. Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty ordered people to hew the Lingqu Canal and linked up the route of the Xiangjiang River to the Lijiang River and set up Guilin Prefecture. Later in the Song Dynasty, Guilin had begun to be noted throughout the country for its extreme natural beauty and the saying "Among all the mountains and waters, Guilin is the best" came into being. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

Traveling on Li River

The Li River can be toured in variety of different kinds of boats: large river boats that can sleep several dozen people; smaller live aboard vessels; dinner boats, bamboo rafts, motor boats and small fishing boats. The section of the Lijiang River between Guilin and to Yangshuo is 83 kilometers in its full length. If you take a boat at Mopanshan Dock or Zhujiang Dock, the journey is about 60 kilometers, in which the most beautiful section is the 40 kilometers or so from the starting dock to Xingping.

Touring the Li River is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to enjoy the Guilin region. The section of the river between Guilin to Yangshuo winds through the heart of region with the densest concentration of limestone formations, passing steep-sided conical hills, green mountains, waterfalls, springs and caves. There are essentially two ways to tour the river. The first way is to take a tourist boat down river from Guilin to Yangshuo. The boats are large, comfortable and expensive but the pass through lots of formations. Most passengers get off in Yangshuo and take a bus back to Guilin. The second alternative is to catch a smaller, cheaper boat in Yangshuo, travel upriver past the best formations and return to Yangshuo. Many people bring a bicycle along and get off in Xingping and ride back to Yangshuo.

The Li River is clearish green and moves along at it a good clip without being rough. The trip usually takes most of the day. You can drink beer and chat with the other passengers as you cruise along. Boating isn’t the only way to enjoy the river. An attractive hiking route is from Yangdi wharf in Yangshuo to Xingping County. The walk is only about 10 kilometers but you can spend the whole day strolling along the riverbank and experiencing the local culture

A typical Lijiang River cruise tours begin near Guilin in the morning and end in Yangshuo in the afternoon. It takes about six hours to cover 85 kilometers and includes a buffet lunch of local fare. You can either take the bus trip back to Guilin or settle into Yangshuo for an extended stay. The boat will leisurely weaves among peaks on both sides. You'll also see locals traveling on bamboo rafts and water buffalo grazing on green grasses.

Li River Cruise

Pat Eaton-Robb of Associated Press wrote: “For a glimpse of China’s natural beauty, take the trip south to the city of Guilin and board a boat for a four-hour cruise down the Li River to the picturesque city of Yangshuo, nestled amid the limestone karst hills known as the gumdrop mountains. “It’s a trip into rural China, past bamboo rafts, fishermen who use trained cormorant birds to make their catch and farmers tending rice paddies with the help of water buffalo. [Source: Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press, July 5, 2012]

“The trip starts in Guilin...The real show is the undisturbed nature of the river and surrounding hills. “Tour boats travel one way from Guilin to Yangshuo in the morning. A ticket will cost around 200 yuan, or about US$32, and usually includes lunch. Most boats are air conditioned, and one of the three restrooms on ours included a “Western toilet,” for those averse to squatting.

“The casual cruise includes photo-worthy scenery around virtually every bend as the boat passes landmarks such as Nine Horse Hill, where those with a good eye can find nine horses in the rock formations. The guide will have passengers take out a 20-yuan note when they approach the view of Apple Hill and compare the scenery to the depiction on the back of the bill. It’s one of the most painted scenes in Chinese art.

“The guides note that the river scenes change with the weather, offering beautiful reflections on sunny days and mist-covered mountains after a rain. The boat passes by a scenic fishing village, waterfalls, caves, groves of bamboo and terraced farms. Water buffalo can be seen on the riverbanks, and the tour boats share the river with traditional bamboo rafts (though some are now made from PVC piping). Lunch is nothing to write home about, though some of the boats buy catches from the fishermen who pull up to them on the river. Ours offered the usual noodle and dumpling dishes (though you could spend a little extra and try the turtle).

Sights Along the Lijang River

Most of the Karst rock formation are simply named after their shapes or the images they conjure in the imagination: Penholder's Peak (Bijia Feng), Nine Horses Fresco Hill (Jiuma Huashan), Five Fingers Hill (Wuzhi Feng), and Dragon Head Hill (Longtou Shan). The most prominent rock formations include Bat Hill, A Boy Worships Buddha, Snail Hill, Cockfighting Hill, Five Tigers Catch a Goat, Crown Cave, Single-Beauty Peak and Mural Hill. There are hundreds of others.

The Lijiang River Scenic Zone was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in1996. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The total area is two thousand square kilometers which covers the entire city of Guilin, Yangshuo County and certain parts of Lingui, Lingchuan and Yongfu counties....The landforms of Guilin can be divided into four categories but corrosion takes the main part of the four, that means the low-lying land of peaks and plains of peak forests are the landform features of Guilin; then the corrosion landforms of hillock and gentle slope hillock; eroding landforms of ridge, ravine; and accumulation landforms of every terrace. The stone mountains, mainly of limerocks, of Guilin are composed of marine biochemical sediments. Years of weathering and water erosion have given shape to the rich and varied patterns of its present peaks, either in isolation or in cluster, and magnificent karst caves. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“There are about 157 rock hills (now under first-class or second-class state protection respectively), 21 major karst caves and several hundred smaller ones. Among the solitary hills and protruding rocks of Guilin, flows the tranquil Lijiang River and its tributaries, which produce most spectacular sight. Guilin is also famous for its Reed Flute Cave and Seven-Star Rocks. There are a lot of cultural relics in the scenic zone. More than two thousand stone carvings scatter all over its scenic sites. There is the Lingqu Canal of the Qin Dynasty, site of Guyanguan Pass of the Qin and Han periods and the Imperial City of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Huaping primitive forest area; home of Cathay Silver Fir known as the world's living fossil, is located within 70 kilometers radius of Guilin City. The People's Government of Guilin City has made a program for the preservation of this scenic zone. Both the state and the local governments allocate certain amount of money each year for the development and preservation of the area.”

Daxu Ancient Town (on the east bank of the Li River, 23 kilometers southeast of Guilin City) was originally established in A.D. 200 during the Northern Song Dynasty. The two-kilometer-long ancient street is paved with bluestone slabs, and flanked with well-preserved old buildings, mostlu with Ming and Qing features such as black bricks and black tiles. The building are designed for both commercial and residential use, composed of the gate, courtyard, principal room, wing rooms and backyard. Some ancient workshops, such as shops of bamboo products and straw sandals, clinics and barber shops can also be found in the town.

Lingqu Canal

Lingqu Canal (in Xing'an County, 75 kilometers northeast of Guilin) is one of the oldest canals in the world. First built in 214 B.C., the canal is 30 kilometers long and 5 meters wide and connects the Xiang River with the Li River, and thus is part of a historical waterway between the Yangtze and the Pearl River Delta. There is an old saying that "North is Great Wall and South is Lingqu Canal." However, unlike the spectacular and solemn Great Wall, Lingqu Canal is quiet and tranquil. In addition, it has many scenic spots around the canal, including Meiling Pavilion, the Square of Qin Culture and Zhuangyuan Bridge (Number One Scholar Bridge). Travel Information: Coordinates:N 25° 36’ 10”, E 110° 41’ 10” Hours Open: 7:30am-7:00pm (May 1 to Oct. 31); 8:00am-6:00pm (November1-April 30);; Admission: 40 yuan; Getting There: take a bus from Guilin to Xing'an County and then transfer tricycle

Lingqu Canal was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Lingqu Canal, also known as Dou Canal or Xing’an Canal, is located in Xing’an County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is an ancient canal that connects the Xiang River and Li River, joins the Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Basin and links up Central China and Lingnan region. Its overall length is 36.4 kilometers running through towns of Xing’an, Yan’guan, Rongjiang and Xiang’li. Its main projects include the Canal Head Complex, the South Canal and the North Canal. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“In terms of design and form, the most distinctive heritage elements of the entire project design including naturally bending waterways, water diversion complexes, overflow dams and discharge channels for flood discharge, Doumen and weirs generally stay in the form of the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China; in terms of material, original materials are used in hydraulic facilities and the modern restorations also showed respect to the history; in terms of function, the overall hydraulic system remains its ancient functions, and the water diversion system, flood discharge system, irrigation system and water elevation facility operate as usual, and most canal sections are capable for navigation.

“The technology system created with the construction of the Lingqu Canal is of great significance in the world history of canal. It is the evidence for the uniqueness of canal technology of ancient China, and an outstanding example of early canals that reflect the Asian hydraulic and navigation technology of ancient civilization. It has innovative and representative achievements in design of a mountain-crossing canal, curved navigation route with locks, and accurate control over water flow by comprehensive hydraulic facilities. In addition, it integrates navigation, irrigation and flood control functions and is an outstanding example of comprehensive, sustainable and effective use of natural resources in traditional Chinese agricultural society. Constructed in 214 B.C., it had vital importance for the success of the Qin Empire's conquest of Baiyue ethnic group and Lingnan region, and helped maintain stability in the southern territory of a unified multinational country. Meanwhile, as a typical example of Chinese ancient canal landscapes, the unique landform and winding waterways as well as the rurality of the Lingqu Canal have great aesthetic value.

“The site selection, planning and design of the Lingqu Canal reflect the ancient Chinese people’s creativity in building canals. From the perspective of location and concept, the Canal sits at the “Five Mountains” region in south China and links up the Xiang River in the north and the Li River in the south of the mountains, thus successfully connects the water systems of the Yangtze and the Pearl River. It is not only the first mountain-crossing canal in the world but also one of the earliest successful practices in human history in connecting two different water systems through an artificial canal. From the perspective of design of navigation routes, it uses curves with locks to ensure water depth and speed of water flow for navigation demands. The concept of “curves with locks” was originated from China with the Lingqu Canal as the earliest existing application and technical representative.”

History of the Lingqu Canal

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “After the Qin Empire unified China, Shi Lu was assigned by Emperor Qinshihuang to build a canal for grain transport. The project was completed in 214 B.C., which is known as the Lingqu Canal today. It has directly secured the South China with military significance. The Canal has been in service for over 2000 years as the major water transport route between Lingnan (today’s Guangdong and Guangxi) and Central China till completion of the Yuehan Railway and Xianggui Railway in modern times. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO]

“The Canal’s main design philosophy is to use weirs to elevate water level of the Xiang River, and they further divert one stream (today’s South Canal) into an upper branch of Li River and directs another stream through a new canal (today’s North Canal) which meanders into Xiang River. In this way, the two rivers are connected to allow communication between the river systems of the Yangtze and the Pearl River. At the canal head, overflow dams, training dikes and side overflow dams are used to divert water and control flood. Moreover, the Canal was built by combing excavation and dam construction, the degree of slope is eased by curves, use of water was controlled by Doumen (ancient locks) and weirs, and existing natural waterway (former course of Xiang River) was utilized or new canals were dug to discharge flood. This is a comprehensive project with multiple hydraulic facilities and making use of all available natural resources. It exhibits the distinctive style and the scientific achievements of ancient Chinese hydraulic projects.

“The Lingqu Canal was also built as an irrigation project which turned Xing’an an agriculturally developed area. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Canal was completely renovated and well preserved as an ancient project. Though it no longer serves navigation and the irrigation function is weakened, related waterways and hydraulic facilities are preserved. Today, the Lingqu Canal stands as an important cultural heritage and a multifunctional hydraulic project serving irrigation, flood control, water supply and tourism.

“The technological system created by the Lingqu Canal is of great significance in the world history of canal. It is the evidence for the unique canal technology of ancient China, and an outstanding example of early canals that reflect the Asian hydraulic technology and navigation technology of ancient civilizations. It has innovative and representative achievements in design of a mountain-crossing canal, curved navigation route with locks, and accurate control over water flow by comprehensive hydraulic facilities. Constructed in 214 B.C., it had vital importance for the success of the Qin Empire's conquest of Baiyue ethnic group and Lingnan region, and helped maintain stability in the southern territory of a unified multinational country. Meanwhile, as a typical example of Chinese ancient canal landscapes, the unique landform and winding waterways as well as the rurality of the Lingqu Canal have great aesthetic value.

“Constructed since 214 B.C., the Lingqu Canal is an outstanding example of Chinese canal transportation technology in the Qin Dynasty, a rare example and masterpiece of the ancient canal transportation technology in Asia and even the world, and an outstanding example of comprehensive, sustainable and effective use of water and land resources in Chinese traditional agricultural society. Its main technological feature lies in its use of water resources. The hydraulic facilities are simple but fully operational to accurately control water flow and serve navigation purpose as well as irrigation and flood control. Supplementation, reduction and renovation of hydraulic facilities and historical evolution of irrigation branches, ponds and surrounding farmlands explain how Chinese ancient comprehensive hydraulic technology constantly renovated and formed its distinctive system along with natural and social evolution over 2000 years. On the other hand, the winding waterways gradually blends with surrounding natural and cultural settings and forms unique landscape, making the Lingqu Canal an outstanding example of rural canal landscapes in Chinese traditional agricultural civilization.

“The construction of the Lingqu Canal was closely related to the military conquest of the Lingnan region by the Qin Empire. It witnessed the important historical progress that the Central China Dynasty conquered the Baiyue ethnic group in the south and achieved stability of the southern territory, a vital moment of the history of Asia and even of the world when Chinese agricultural civilization expanded and reached a unified empire.

“From a technological perspective, we see nine waterways (including canals) inscribed on the World Heritage List or the Tentative List. They represent three technology systems from different periods and civilizations, namely the Western canal technology from the industrial revolution, the Middle East irrigation technology, and the ancient Chinese canal (and irrigation) technology. According to the International Canal Monument List, the technology of the Lingqu Canal is representative in time and region and is an outstanding example of ancient Chinese canal technology. It has many noteworthy features — durability, geographical flexibility, adaptable hydraulic structures, the emphasis on accurate water flow control to cope with rainy and dry seasons, and the integrated navigation, irrigation and flood discharge functions.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization),, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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