Guilin is one of China’s most popular scenic cities.
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The boundaries of the city of Guilin are now much larger. The new city, composed of former city of Guilin and the Guilin Prefecture, encompasses 27,797 square kilometers. It has a population of 4.79 million. Undeniably, to live in Guilin is to be a lover of mountains and rivers. Which is not to say that all the city residents spend this leisure hours gallivanting among the hills and forests of the high country.
The establishment of the new city, approved by the State Council in 1999, will further to strengthen Guilin’s status as a tourist attraction, and promote construction and economic development in the whole area. The new government gives top priority to tourism and make better use of rich resources to develop its economy. The expansion provides better opportunity for the city to optimize tourism structure and improve tourism services.
Guilin, one of China’s most popular scenic cities, played host to 10.97 million tourists in 2002 years, up 8.7 per cent from 2001. The city ranked in a record 4.99 billion yuan (US$601million) in earnings from tourism. With a history of more then 2,000 years, Guilin is renowned for its green mountains, clear water and strangely shaped rock formations.
Most of the sights in Guilin are scenic. Although the mountains are the usual peaked mountains, they are rounded at the top and there are tons of them, very picturesque. They look almost fake and the ones in the background fade to grey more than the nearer, darker ones. A popular Chinese saying goes: The scenery in Guilin is the finest, but Yangshuo’s is still better桂林山水甲天下，阳朔山水甲桂林。The well known poet Han Yu 韩愈(768-820) in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) described Guilin’s landscape: “The river forms a green gauze belt, the mountains are like blue jade hairpins”/ “The river resembles a green ribbon, while the hills are emerald hairpins.” 江作青罗带，山如碧玉簪。
About 30 ethnic groups like Zhuang, Hui, Miao, Yao, and Dong inhabit in the city. Guilin is reputed as a city with “the most beautiful hills and rivers on earth. ” Its fantastic scenery and cultural heritage attract millions of tourists each year from both home and abroad.
It is said that since ancient times the landscape of Guilin has been second to none under Heaven (the scenery in Guilin is the best under Heaven). Great poet Fan Chengda 范成大（1126-1193）of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) said, The strange sight of Gui Mountain should be ranked first under Heaven. “Li Zengbo of the Southern Song Dynasty acclaimed,” The mountains and streams of Guilin are second to none under Heaven. “Till the Qing Dynasty when poets changed the word” stream “into” waters, “hence the popular saying:” The mountains and waters of Guilin are second to none under Heaven, “or rather, ” The landscape of Guilin is second to none under Heaven. It is said that Guilin is unique in four四绝： aspects verdant mountains (enchanting hills) 山清 , lovely waters (limpid water) 水秀, strange caves (fantastic caverns) 洞奇, and charming rocks (wonderful rocks) 石美, and in addition there are four excellent views四佳：deep ponds 深潭,dangerous shoals 险滩, flowing springs 流泉, and torrential waterfalls飞瀑 . It takes years to appreciate each of these features. Besides the four uniquenesses and the four excellences, the four seasons should also be taken into consideration. The landscape in Guilin changes in four seasons.
Elephant Trunk Peak or Elephant Hill 象鼻山 （亦称象山）
Elephant Trunk Peak, also known as Elephant Hill, a huge rock formation of an Elephant by the confluence of the Yang and Li rivers阳江和漓江汇流处 , looks as if its trunk is dipping into the water. Legend has it that this Hill was really an Elephant belonging to the Emperor of Heaven, and that when the Jade Emperor set out to conquer the Earth, the Elephant was made to work so hard providing transport that he fell sick and some farmers saved his life. For this the Elephant was very grateful and decided to stay on earth and help the farmers. The Emperor of Heaven was so angry about its drinking from the river. The emperor’s sword thrust turned the Elephant into the rocky hill, hence the name. A pagoda erected on top of the Hill stands for the hilt of the sword.
Fubo (Whiripool) Hill 伏波山
The Fubo Hill towers solitarily in the northeast of the city, with half of it in the Li River. On the eastern side of the Hill are a winding corridor facing the river, a teahouse and a “Listening to the Waves Pavilion听涛阁” built along the cliff of the hill. On the west side, a flight of stone steps leads to the Kuishui Pavilion, which is half way up the hill, then to the top. At the foot of the Hill are the “Pearl-Returning Cave还珠洞” and “One Thousand Buddhas Cave 千佛岩.” In the “Pearl-Returning Cave,” there hangs from the ceiling a rock, which nearly touches the ground. Legend continues that once a general name Fu Bo tested his sword by cutting what was originally a stone pillar and has left a crevice at the bottom ever since. In the “One Thousand Buddhas Cave,” there are in fact more than 200 Buddha statues (idols, big and small), most of which were carved in the Tang and Song dynasties. In addition, there still exist very many stone carvings, among which are a portrait and an autograph done by Mi Fu (1051-1107)—a distinguished painter and calligrapher of the Northern Song Dynasty. Because of the beautiful sights and its peculiar caves, the gill is acclaimed as “Fu Bo Resort.”
Piled Silk Hill (Folded Brocade Hill) 叠彩山
The Piled Silk Hill lies to the north of the city. The tourist will find the Hill broken here and there with the strata exposed on the sides like piled-up silk, hence the name. The top of the Piled Silk Hill provides a panoramic view of the beautiful Guilin. Legend has it that there used to be many osmanthus tress on the hill, so it is sometimes called Osmanthus Hill. As there is a particular strange wind cave in the hill, it is also named the Wind Cave Hill. Actually this point of interest consists of two hills named Siwang四望山and Yuyue 于越山and two peaks called Xianhe仙鹤 (Crane) and Mingyue 明月(Bright Moon). Climbing several flights of stone steps, the tourist will first reach the Piled Silk Pavilion. To the west of the Pavilion is the Siwang Hill standing Opposite the Yuyue Hill. Inscribed on the Pavilion is a “Note to the Siwang Hill” written by a Tang poet Yuan Hui 元晦.The three big characters meaning the “Piled Silk Hill” was written in 1964 by Shen Yinmo, a contemporary calligrapher. Turning back from the Xianhe Peak, the tourist will have access to the Wind Cave by entering the Piled Silk Gate and passing through the Yangzhi Hall, The marvel of the Wind Gate, a most extraordinary sight on the Piled Silk Hill, is characterized by its gentle breeze. The cave runs from south to north and is breezy all the year round. In the cave the tourist will find stone gates, stone carvings and images. At the north entrance of the cave there is a Breeze-Inviting Pavilion, which was first built in the Ming Dynasty and rebuilt in 1972. Two-storey and open on all sides, it is an ideal place for enjoying beautiful views. Coming out of the Pavilion and walking along the right side of the hill, the tourist will find the River-Watching Pavilion, which was first built in the Ming Dynasty and rebuilt in 1954. Climbing more than 200 steps farther from the River-Watching Pavilion, the tourist will reach the Mingyue Peak, where stands the Cloud-Catching Pavilion built after 1949. The scenery is rewarding and looks like a huge picture of embroidery. It is really a tourist attraction. Everyday it draws many thousands of visitors.
Reed Flute Cave 芦笛岩
Reed Flute Cave is the largest and the most spectacular of the karst caverns in Guilin. Its name derives from the reed that grows near the entrance of the cave and makes excellent flutes. Lined along its entire 500-meter zigzag length with stalactites and stalagmites of the most striking colours, the cave is known also as a palace of natural art. Illuminated, the limestone containing minerals appears like coral, agate, amber or jade, and the tourist imagines splendid pavilions, palatial halls, flower garden and orchards. Another impression is of the sun’s rays filtering through tree leaves. At one point in the cave a huge slab of white rock hangs down from a ledge like a cataract. On a terrace opposite the fall stands a rock, the very image of an old scholar. A story of course explains this, saying that a scholar who came to admire the scenery at Guilin was soon enchanted by Reed Flute Cave that he decided to write a poem worthy of its beauty. But a long time passed and he had composed only two lines: “What a masterpiece of nature is the Reed Flute Cave, I wish to praise its beauty, but I cannot find the words.” Before he could finish his poem, the scholar was turned into a stone. One grotto in the cave can hold a thousand people. This is called the Crystal Palace of the Dragon King in Chinese folklore. One stone pilar here is the Dragon King’s magic wand with which he kept the sea tranquil. In the well known novel Pilgrimage to the West the Monkey King Sun Wukong, asks the Dragon King to give him the wand. The Dragon King turns him down, whereupon the Monkey King takes it by force, defeats the Dragon King’s army of snails and jellyfish, and wreaks havoc in the palace. The “snails” and “jellyfish” lie scattered in the cave, broken bits of stalagmites. One stone resembles a carp diving into the water.
The Reed Flute Cave is huge and you walk through to See rock formations named as they look—one looking like a mother holding her baby, one like a crystal palace, another like melons and vegetables! It is full of stalagmites and stalactites. It is interesting to think that all the mountains could have caves inside and you might never know what is inside them.
The Seven-Star Cave 七星岩
The Seven-Star Cave, also called Xixia Cave栖霞洞or Bixu Cave碧虚岩 , is the most fascinating of the caves at the foot of Seven-Star rocks (to be distinguished from the rock formation of the same name in neighbouring Guangdong Province) in Guilin. Centuries ago Seven-Star Cave used to be an underground river channel, which with the movement of the earth’s crust rose above the surface to become a cavern. It became a popular travellers’ attraction as early as 1,300 years ago, and over the centuries many poems and other inscriptions have been left behind on its walls by visitors. The 1,000-meter-long tunnel is also a gallery of stalactites such names as “Monkey Picking Peaches,” “Frog Leaping into a Pond,” “Two Dragons Entering a Cave,” and “Two Dragons Playing a Ball” Sometimes the formations resemble forests; at other times they remind the visitor of waterfalls.
Solitary Peak 独秀峰
The Solitary Peak, also known as Purple Golden Hill, towers right in the center of the city. It has the majesty befitting its name: Single Beauty Peak. In the haze of dawn or the glow of sunset the Peak is purple or gold. Climbing the 306 stone steps to the top is rewarded by a bird’s eye view of the city and the hills that surround it like so many giant bamboo shoots. Visible too is the Li River winding its way through the fantastic hills and into the distance.
The Jingjiang Seigniorial Graveyard 靖江王墓群
A 107-square-kilometer Ming-dynasty seigniorial graveyard and its underground tomb chambers on the outskirts of Guilin will be turned into a tourist site after over 10 years of excavation. Based on a restoration blueprint provided by archaeologists, the State Development Planning Commission approved a 20 million yuan (US$ 2.4million) budget to turn the site into a tourist attraction. The renovation of the main structures of the Jingjiang Seigniorial Graveyard, which contains the tombs of 11 feudal lords and over 300 tombs of lower-ranking officials and their relatives, will be finished within two years. The Jingjiang Seigneur was a position created by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, to administrate the southwest part of the empire. Some 5 million yuan (US$ 600,000) has been spent on the excavation and repair work over the past few years. A large variety of relics have been unearthed from the site. A theme park on the relics will be built in the Yaoshan Mountains scenic spot near the graveyard, a part of the plan to add more charm to the archaeological site. The graveyard is expected to become another popular tourist spot in Guilin, fame for its limestone formations.
The Ling Canal 灵渠
The 34-kilometer-long Ling Canal was built in the period 219-214 BC. It is today’s most complete ancient water conservancy project in the world still in existence. It was scientifically designed and exquisitely built, linking the two water systems of Yangtze and Pearl rivers, and has become the communication hub between the Central Plain and Linnan since the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). In recent years, Xing’an County 兴安县of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomental protection and tourism development. It has become a new tourist attraction for Guilin scenic area.
The Ling Canal consists of a ploughshare, a water diversion dam, a south Canal and a north canal, a spillway as well as a boat-lock. The ploughshare juts out into the Xiangjiang River through the north canal, and 30 per cent into the south canal (the Ling Canal), which empties itself into the Li River. In springtime, the pink peach blossoms and the green willows along the banks and their reflections in the clear flickering water present a wonderful picture.
The four ancient water conservancy projects in China are the Ling Canal in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 广西桂林灵渠, Dujiangyan Irrigation Project in Chengdu, Sichuan Province四川成都都江堰, the Grand Canal from to Hangzhou 京航大运河and the Karez坎儿井, an irrigation system of wells connected by underground channels used in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The Seven-Star Park 七星公园
Located on the east bank of the Li River, the Seven-Star Park is about 1.5 kilometers away from the city proper. Encompassing more than 100 acres, the park was built after 1949. Points of interest include the Plough, Purple Mist Over the Camel Hump, Osmanthus trees and the Forest of Steles. The park shares all such beauties as “the strangeness of hills,” “the clearness of waters,” and “the marvels of caves” in Guilin. The Plough is a major attraction in Guilin and the park is named after it. The Plough board is formed by the four peaks of the Putuo Hill, which are called Tianshu, Tianxuan, Tianji and Tianquan, while the Plough tail consists of the following three peaks—Yuheng, Kaiyang and Yaoguang. They are known as the Crescent Hill. The Camel Hill is just shaped like a camel squatting on the ground. The two limpid waters—the Xiaodong River and the Lingjian Stream flowing through the park, join together under the old flower bridge (first built in the Song Dynasty) and then wind southward by the hill. Reflections of the green Peak and the bridge in the water form a fascinating picture. Nestling in the hills and connected by winding paths are arbours and pavilions with red pillars and green tiles. Arched gates, flights of stone steps and thickly shaded walks, all seem to be very tranquil and pleasant. When the autumn wind begins to blow the entire park is filled with the perfume of golden cassia flowers. There are caves in the hills inside the park. The most illustrious one is the Seven-Star Cave.