Travel guide to Guilin, China

Situated in the northeast corner of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin is hailed by many as the most beautiful place in China and is one of the must-see destinations for most foreign tourists. According to a popular Chinese saying, “Guilin’s scenery bests all others in the world.” Its shapely-rising limestone towers and crystal-clear waters are often portrayed in Chinese artworks. Adding to its natural beauty are many fascinating caves.

The city of Guilin was founded in the Qin Dynasty in 314 BC as a small settlement on the Lijiang River. It became increasingly important following the construction of a canal joining the river with another further north, providing a transport link with the Yangzi. The imperial court could thus send food and provisions by water from the Yangzi plains to its armies in the far south. The town becamguiling the provincial capital in the Ming Dynasty, and remained so until 1914, when the capital was moved to Nanning.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Guilin has developed a fledging industry, producing a variety of products such as pharmaceutical goods, tires, machinery, fertilizers and silk. From its noted profusion of flowering cassia trees, which have a strong sweet scent, it produces a number of specialties including perfume, wine, tea, cinnamon, and herbal medicine.

There are more than 30 noted scenic spots within the boundaries of Guilin Peak. Among them are a hill standing in solitary loftiness in the center of the city; the Elephant Trunk Hill, the city’s symbol, so named because of its resemblance to an elephant’s sipping water from the Lijiang River with its trunk; the Piled Festoon Hill that is broken here and there with its rock strata exposed on its sides like piles of fancy festoons; and the Crescent Hill that is named after its moon-shaped cave opening.

There are two fantastic caves in the area— the seven-star-rock cave, which derives its name from the arrangement of surrounding peaks resembling the pattern of the stars of the Great Bear constellation, and Reed-Flute Cave, named after the reeds growing around the cave mouth. They both contain spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.

The city also boasts other beautiful hills, such as the Fubo Hill, which is supposed to restrain the waters of the Lijing River, and Nanxi Hill that stands magnificently like a huge screen.

A boat trip from Guilin along the Lijiang River presents one of the finest excursions on your tour of China. The journey downstream to Yangshuo offers 30 miles of breathtaking scenery.

One of the first points of interest is the pagoda-capped Elephant Trunk Hill, or Xiangbishan, long used as the symbol of Guilin. A little further downstream you will pass, on your left, Baotashan with a Ming Dynasty pagoda on top. East of it stands Chuanshan, or the Hill with a Hole. Then begins a series of beautiful scenes that unfold as you glide away from Guilin on your journey south.

Coming close to the Erlang Gorge, a huge cliff comes into view. This is the famous “Picture Hill” that resembles horses of different colors in different positions.

On the right, after passing Picture Hill, is Huangbu (Yellow Cloth) Beach. Here the river is wide and flows gently. Seven graceful peaks are likened to seven quiet young girls standing shoulder to shoulder. The fabled Xingping Wonderland begins here. Xingping is a famous, ancient town. Caishi Hill looms high in front of the town, with thick bamboo groves in the back. The cruise ends at the colorful market town of Yangshuo.