Guilin - Paradise on Earth
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Guilin or Cassia Forest, in Guangxi province, is surrounded by the best-known scenery China. There is an old saying in China,"Guilin's scenery dwarfs the rest of the nation". Recently, tourism has taken a toll on Guilin. However, the narrow limestone mountains that are likened in a Tang poem to jade hairpins are still as magnificent as before. The trip along the Li River to Yangshuo does offer the most wonderful and peaceful views of the river.

The scenery is best seen in the mist, which inspired centuries of landscape painters, poets and writers.

The weather in Guilin is subtropical. The best time to visit Guilin is autumn or late spring, when it is warm.
Guilin City Ratings
** The following ratings are based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.
History(7) Art(7) Local Culture/Unique Tour(6)
Nature/Scenic(10) Food/Shopping(7) Night Life(8)
Religion(4) Adventure/Sports(8) Reasonable Cost(8)
Recommended Days of Stay: 2

Quick Facts
Population - 1.2 million
People - Zhuang, Han

When to go
Tourist Season - May through October
Coldest Months - January and February with temperature as low as 3C;
Hottest Months - August with temperature as high as 36C;
Annual Precipitation - 1,900 millimeters (mainly in May through September
Getting In and Out
By Train - Guilin is seven hours from Nanning and 14 hours from Guangzhou by train;
By Air - A 55-minute flight from Guangzhou. There are also direct flights available from HK;
By Car - Guilin is one hour away from Liuzhou by express bus;

History


Guilin was established as a commandery under the first emperor of the Qin when he made his southern expedition to Guangzhou in 214 B.C. At the same time the Lingqu canal was begun, linking the river networks of the Pearl and the Yangtse and Guilin's importance as a regional trading center grew. From the Ming until 1914 Guilin was the capital of Guangxi province.

During the Sino-Japanese war the population of Guilin was drastically increased by refugees from the north.

After 1949, Guangxi was made an 'autonomous region' rather than a 'province' because one-third of the 10 million people living in Guangxi are of the Zhuang nationality, a minority in China.


Jingjiang Ming Tombs * *
The trip to Jingjiang Tombs is an experience itself. You pass old villages, water buffalo herds, mountains and several intriguing Ming cemeteries. All persons buried here in relatively simple graves are descendants of the Ming emperor's family. The site and the museum within it are only worth a trip if you have extra time to kill.

Lingqu (Ling Canal)* *
Lingqu was dug in 214 B.C. to connect the Chang (Yangtze) and the Zhu (Pearl) rivers. It was an inland route to Guangzhou until the 1930s. It is still important for irrigation, of great interest to engineers and history fans. It has 18 locks and sections, and starts about 57 km north of Guilin in Xing'an County. You can ride a small bamboo raft and enjoy its tranquillity and ancient bridge.

Local Culture/Unique Tour
Li River Folk Customs Center
The Li River Folk Customs Center (Feng Qing Yuan) has Miao, Dong and Zhuang buildings, a wind-and-rain bridge and Dong drum tower. These spots are good for photographs.

Li Cassia Festival
The Li Cassia Festival is held every year in March.

Li Mountain & River Festival
The Li Mountain & River is held every year in October or November for three days.

Nature/Scenic
Diecai Hill * * * *
Diecai Hill has numerous small peaks. All the present pavilions and walkways are post-1949 constructions, replacing earlier ones, and the cassia planting is also post-1949. All the peaks have dreamy names such as Bright Moon, etc. The hills have many stone carvings, of which the most notable are the Record of the Pleated-Silk Mountain and Record of the Four-View Mountain by Yuan Hui of the Tang Dynasty. There are also stone-carved pictures such as Li Bingshou's orchids and bamboo and Tang and Song Buddhist figures carved into cliffs.

The Feng Dong (Wind Cave) is open at both ends and cool and breezy throughout the year. The view from the top, celebrated since the Five Dynasties (10C AD) is spectacular. It's where the sky and the water meet.


Fubo Hill* * *
Fubo means whirlpool. The famous Fubo Hill, named after famous Han Marshall Ma Fubo, is only a short walk from the Sheraton Hotel. There is a giant 7.5 ton iron Qing bell belonging to the temple originally here. To the right of the bell is the Cave of the Returned Pearl. Legend has it that a dragon left a pearl fas a gift to a poor family, who returned it later out of honesty. A rock nearby is called " Sword Testing Stone". It is said to be where the Han Marshall tested his sword before battles. Another interesting scene is a cliff with Tang Buddha not far from the Sword Testing Stone.

Qixing Park* * * * *
Part of Qixing (Seven Star) Park is Putuo Shan (named like the Buddhist holy mountain off the coast south of Shanghai for the abode). Putuo Shan is one of the holiest mountains for Buddhists (See Mountains Section for details).

Qixing Park contains a zoo, Camel Hill with a miniature garden, and Seven Star Hill whose Seven peaks are positioned like the stars in the Big Dipper. If you are not tired of the Seven Star yet, there is a cave nearby called Seven Star Cave on the west side of Potaraka Hill. The cave has three levels. Visitors usually visit the middle one. The cave contains dripping stalagmites and stalactite pinnacles, all illuminated with colored lights. It is said that tourists as early as Sui (581-618) dynasty have been frequenting this cave.

Another famous spot in Qixing Park is Flower Bridge. It is 700-year old and made from stone. The original bridge of Song dynasty was made from wood. The current stone one was a replica after the wood bridge was destroyed in a flood. The design of the bridge was to take advantage of the bridge's reflection in the water so that the reflection and the bridge itself would form a complete circle.

During spring, a forest of cassia trees in Qixing Park blossom into a wonder of nature.

Other spots worth stopping by in Qixing Park include Hidden Dragon Cave, Putuo Temple and Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) Cave on Putuo Shan (Mountain). During Song dynasty, Emperors sent stone steles with names of people who were sentenced to be executed. Guilin's Hidden Dragon Cave has the only ones left in China.


Ludi (Red Flute) Cave* * * *
Ludi (Red Flute) Cave's name came from the reeds that grow at the entrance. You will probably need almost an hour to fully explore and appreciate the beauty of the cave. It's a great place to visit during summer as the temperature inside is consistently around 20 degrees Celsius. You need to let your imagination go in order to follow the guides' description of the limestone. It is supposed to resemble a giant goldfish, a Buddha, and assorted vegetables.

Xiangbi (Elephant Trunk) Hill* * * *
Xiangbi Hill juts out into the Li River at its junction with Peach Blossom River, and at dusk looks extraordinary, resembling a larger-than-life elephant drinking from the river.

Li River Trips* * * * *
Most tourists come to Guilin for the Li River boat trip. The quiet, pastoral landscapes along the river are quite a departure from Beijing's gray sky, Shanghai's crowded markets, and Guangzhou's dirty streets. It's definitely an enchanting experience. Setting out downstream, the boat passes a landscape of manicured fields shaded by leafy bamboo groves and punctuated with steep, oddly-shaped hills. The hills are named Crown Rock, Conch Hill, Hade Lotus Peak and Snow Lion Peak. These karst limestone formations evolved 200 million years ago, when the area was under the sea.

On the way, you will see large cormorants sitting on fishing boats. If you are lucky you might even watch them at work, fishing for their owners. These birds' necks were tightened up by strings so that they will not swallow the fish they catch.

The boast ride downstream usually stops at the village of Yangdi, but the karst scenery can be seen all the way to Yangshuo. The way back to Guilin is by bus. Try to stop by the Thousand Year Banyan Tree village. The tree is amazing with its massive spread of branches and house-like trunk.

Food/ Shopping
Guilin is famous for is artistic pottery, bamboo, new and old-style wood carvings, etc. The main shopping area is along Zhongshan Zhong Road where you can find the best department store.

Myer Guilin Jewelry Manufacturing Company exports mainly to US and Europe.

Both the Tourist Night Market and the Yangshuo Riverside Market are good places to browse through carefully. Once seeing an item you like, definitely use what you learned from negotiation classes and start haggling. The markups can be as high as 300-400%.

Guilin's food is mainly Cantonese style with chili sauce. Seafood here is fresh and delicious.

Like any other places in China, one will need to go to local food night markets to taste what the locals are eating. You can find all kinds of strange stuff Chinese people eat in Guilin's night food market.

Men Bin - One Chinese national pass time is Karaoke. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Go to Men Bin and enjoy Karaoke with the locals!

Night Life
Night Boats to Watch Cormorants
The picture coming to people's mind when they first think about Guilin is the night boats with cormorants sitting on them at sunset in the background of the steep hills. A trip to Guilin will not be complete until you've observed this process. The fisherman take their cormorants out on bamboo rafts. Once in the river, they light up the lights to attract fish. Spotting the fish, cormorants will jump into water and catch them. Because their necks are tied by strings, they can't swallow them. When they come back on the rafts, the cormorants give up their catch to the fisherman.

Night Spring Theater
The Acrobatic and Minority Show at the Spring Theater is definitely worth a trip.

Night Go Go
Go Go is the best disco in town if you are into that sort of night life. It is right behind Sheraton.

Religion
Relic Pagoda (Sheli Pagoda)
Sheli Ta was located in the south of the town. The 'relic' was a stone box, encased in the brick pagoda which is part of the Wanshou si ( Ten-thousand-year Temple), the earliest Buddhist foundation in Guilin though the present temple buildings are Ming, Qing and later.
 
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