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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Guilin

Guilin / KweilinGuilin / Kweilin View slideshow

Guilin lies in the middle of some fabulously beautiful countryside in the northeast of the autonomous region of Guangxi.

Several crystal-clear rivers meander through the town, which is encircled by a ring of mountains with bizarre rock-formations and caves. The landscape was formed over a period of some 200 million years, when the sea still reached this far inland. Layers of muschelkalk (chalk formed from fossilized shells) were deposited; then the earth's crust was formed, the chalk stratified and was shaped by wind and water to produce vast numbers of caves.

All that makes Guilin a unique natural experience. For hundreds of years poets and artists have been fascinated by the sheer splendor of the unique scenery, around which many fairy tales and legends have been woven. In autumn the scent of cinnamon trees fills the air.

Seven Star Park

Seven Star Park lies in the east of the town. It covers an area of 40ha/100acres, making it Guilin's largest public park, and derives its name from its seven hills, the layout of which is similar to that of the stars in the Great Bear constellation. At the entrance will be found the Bridge of Flowers (Huaqiao) from the Song period (960-1279). The four northernmost hills, the Putuoshan, contain a number of caves, including Seven Star Cave. The three southern peaks form the Yueshan Hills. The woods containing stone inscriptions, mostly from the Song period, will be found interesting.

Seven Star Cave

Seven Star Cave (Qixing Yan), formed from a subterranean river-bed, measures 800m/2,400ft in length overall and is made up of several grottos, both small and large, linked by zig-zag passageways. It has attracted visitors for centuries. The largest cave is 43m/140ft wide and 27m/89ft high, with a constant internal temperature of about 20°C (68°F). Its walls are covered with writings and poems by famous calligraphers, statesmen and men of letters, the oldest inscription dating from the year 590.

Camel Hill

Camel Hill (Luotuoshan) is in the southeast of the park; as its name suggests, it looks rather like a sitting dromedary. Peach trees are scattered over it, and these give it a pink tinge in spring. The Municipal Zoo at its western foot is open to visitors.

Drago Refuge Cave

Dragon Refuge Cave (Longyin Yan) in the west of the park contains over one hundred inscriptions, ranging in date from the Northern Song period (960-1126) to the early 20th C.

Mount of Unique Beauty

A steep path of 306 steps leads up to the top of the Mount of Unique Beauty in the town center. It is 152m/500ft high, and from the top there is a magnificent view over the town and the surrounding area. The peak is dominated by an arched edifice known as The Southern Gateway to Heaven (Nantian Men). There are a number of caves on the mountain slopes, the inner and outer walls of which are covered in inscriptions from the Tang (618-907) and Qing (1644-1911) eras. To the south of the mountain, on the land belonging to the teacher training college, stands the Wangcheng, once the residence of the King of Jingjiang. All that remains are parts of the walls together with some balustrades and staircases.

Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill can be found on the west bank of the Lijiang river, in the south of the town. Its shape is reminiscent of an elephant dipping its trunk in the river. Legend says that an elephant which belonged to the Emperor of Heaven came down to earth to help the people in their work. This angered the Emperor of Heaven, who stabbed the elephant as it was drinking at the river's edge and turned it to stone. The cave between the ''body'' and the ''trunk'' is of a particularly interesting shape and has inspired poets and writers old and new to engrave verses on its walls. The poems of Lo You, Fan Chengda and other poets of the Song dynasty (960-1279) are of inestimable literary and archaeological value. On the top of the hill stands the Puxian Ta Pagoda in the shape of the handle of the dagger with which the elephant was killed.

Cave of the Returned Pearls

The Cave of the Returned Pearls (Huanzhu Dong) lies at the foot of the Mountain of the Gentle Waves. According to legend, this was the lair of a dragon which owned a glowing string of pearls. A fisherman found them and took them, but he was plagued by pangs of conscience and finally returned the jewels to their owner. In the cave will be found the touchstone on which swordsmen tested their weapons. On Qianfo Yan Rock can be seen over 200 Buddhist sculptures and inscriptions from Tang and Song era (7th-13th C).

Whirlpool Hill

Whirlpool Hill (Fuboshan) lies 300m/900ft to the east of the Peak of Unique Beauty. The iron bell weighing 2.5 tonnes and the giant Pot of a Thousand Men are from the Dingyue Si temple of Diecaishan and date from the Qing period (1644-1911).

South Creek Hill

On the southern edge of the town towers South Creek Hill, with its two symmetrical peaks. It is rich in caves and artistically inscribed rock-faces. The writings number 200 and date back to the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) eras. On the north edge of the hill lies a park of the same name.

Zengpi Yan

10km/6mi south of the town, at the foot of Mount Dushan, will be found the cave known as Zengpi Yan, where traces of a Stone Age settlement were found in 1965. The finds - stone and bone tools, pottery, traces of fires and graves - can be seen in an exhibition hall.

Surroundings

Reed Flute Cave

Reed Flute Cave (Ludi Yan), situated in a completely concealed spot on Guangming Hill, 6km/3.75mi northwest of the town, is Guilin's largest and most impressive cave. Its name is explained by the fact that reeds for making flutes and pipes have been grown in this region since ancient times. This dripstone cave is 240m/790ft deep, and visitors will walk for some 500m/550yd through a sea of stalactites and stalagmites, with the artificial lighting provided by floodlights and neon lamps emphasizing the ever-changing shapes. One grotto, called The Crystal Palace of the Dragon King, will hold 1000 people; a pillar of stone represents the Dragon King's magic wand. Over 70 wall-inscriptions from the Tang period (618-907) bear eloquent witness to the cave's long history.

Lijiang River

Pagoda along the Lijiang River.
A trip along the Lijiang River is one of the high spots of a holiday in China. From Guilin to Yangshuo the river meanders its way through 83km/52mi of beautiful countryside, with bamboo forests, dense reed-beds and incredibly bizarre rock formations.
Now and again the visitor will see a fishing boat glide by with two or more cormorants on board. The use of these birds in fishing is diminishing as it is no longer lucrative. The journey will continue past Pierced Hill (Chuanshan), Clean Vase Hill (Jingpingchan), Embroidery Hill (Xiushan) and, at about the halfway point, Picture Hill (Huashan).
The local tourist office arranges trips on the river, with a guide, which last about five hours.

Yangshuo

The River near Yangshuo.
Yangshuo, the end of the trip on the river Lijiang, is a center for independent travelers, with many small, inexpensive hotels. Where the boats moor in Yangshuo there is a pretty market offering arts and crafts for sale. Green Lotus Peak (Bilian Feng) outside Yangshuo is worth seeing. A few mi south of Yangshuo stands a mighty banyan tree which is hundreds of years old. 3km/2mi from the tree is Moon Hill (Yueliangshan), the peak of which resembles a crescent-shaped crater.
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