China Travel Guide
Founded during the Han era, Guiyang remained a minor provincial center until it became the capital of Guizhou in the early 20th century. The city is situated in a valley along the little Nanming River, protected from the unlucky northern direction by high hills. Guiyang means “South of the Mountains,” although another translation, “Precious Sun,” reflects the general Chinese opinion of the province’s damp climate. An easy-going place, Guiyang is a steadily modernizing city surrounded by parklands, with a couple of historic relics dotted among its tower blocks. The Huaxi District to its south includes rural parks, a few villages inhabited by the Bouyi minority, and a well-preserved Ming-era town.
over Nanming He
Guiyang City Center
- Cuiwei Yuan 2
- Jiaxiu Lou 1
- Jue Yuan 4
- Provincial Museum 6
- Qianling Shan Park 7
- Qianming Si 3
- Wenchang Ge 5
Guiyang City Center
Jiaxiu Lou & Cuiwei Yuan
- 2 Cuiwei Xian Nanming Lu
The small Jiaxiu Pavilion was constructed in 1598 on a tortoise-shaped rock jutting out of Nanming He. It was built as an inspirational meeting place for scholars studying for the imperial civil service examinations. The pavilion is now a teahouse decorated with antique poetry scrolls. Its upper floor offers views of Guiyang’s modern downtown district. The 95-ft (29-m) high, three-storied wooden tower is connected to the banks by the arched, Fuyu Qiao (Floating Jade Bridge), made of solid stone. On the bridge’s southern side, adjacent to Jiaxiu Lou, Cuiwei Garden was originally part of a temple dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion. It was founded around 1500, although all that remain today are late Qing-era buildings.
outside Qianming Si
Qianming Si, Jue Yuan, & Wenchang Ge
- City center, N of the river
A few examples of Guiyang’s classic architecture survive around the city center. The most interesting is Qianming Si, located on Yangming Lane on the north bank of the river. Its main point of interest is the street market outside, selling bonsai trees, pets, fishing gear, and Cultural Revolution memorabilia. Jue Yuan on Fushui Nan Lu is another temple, whose main attraction is the excellent vegetarian restaurant out front, which uses generous quantities of chilies to spice up the tofu, vegetable, and gluten dishes. Just off Wengchang Bei Lu, Wenchang Ge features an elegant three-story tower with flared and pointed eaves built between 1609 and 1669. It was originally part of the east city wall.
- 168 Beijing Lu
- 0851 682 2214
- 9am–5pm Tue–Sun
The second floor of this dusty building houses an interesting collection of local finds, though there are few captions. The pride of the collection is a 3-ft (1-m) high Han-era bronze horse and chariot, and some glazed clay figurines from a Ming tomb near Zunyi. A document on one wall refers to the 19th-century Miao Uprisings, a series of conflicts against increased taxation in Guizhou. Ethnological displays include silverware, batiks, and embroideries from Guizhou’s many minorities.
hill,Qianling Shan Park
Qianling Shan Park
This scenic park comprises an unexpected patch of forested hills to the north of the city. A flagstoned path leads uphill past several shrines, trees hung with red ribbons, and groups of monkeys to Hongfu Si, the main attraction. Entry to the temple is past a 33-ft (10-m) marble stupa and a tiled screen depicting the infant Buddha being washed by nine colorful dragons. The temple was originally founded in 1672, although its present buildings are of recent construction, including a Luohan Hall with several hundred painted statues of Buddhist saints. On the hilltop above, Kanzhu Pavilion offers fine views of the city.
- 11 miles (17 km) S of Guiyang
- 16, 25, 47
The small town of Huaxi is the location of Guizhou University and the attractive Huaxi Park, a 2-sq-mile (5-sq-km) stretch of woodland, river, and ornamental gardens. A handful of Bouyi villages lie close by, including Zhenshan, built entirely in stone. The village is known for its Ground Opera, derived from local animistic rituals, where dancers wear stylized wooden masks. Just 8 miles (12 km) to the south is Qingyang, a garrison outpost founded in 1373. Its 33-ft (10-m) high city walls, dating to the 18th century, are still intact, along with watch-towers, stone gateways and 17 temples.
One thing to look out for in Guizhou is the locals’ fondness for eating dog meat, a habit shared by people in parts of Guangxi and other Southeast Asian countries. Rather like chilies, dog meat is considered “warming” in Chinese medicine, and also a remedy for male impotence. The meat is often served as a hot pot. However, visitors shouldn’t worry about being served dog meat by accident, as restaurants specializing in such dishes usually make it very clear by displaying the carcasses outside their establishments.
Founded as a garrison town in the 13th century, Anshun grew into a prosperous trading post, mainly because of its strategic position along the overland trade routes between central and southwestern China. Today’s city survives on tourism, subsistence farming, and its traditional batik industry, which capitalizes on the highly-developed textile skills of the local Bouyi minority. The Bouyi number around 3 million and live throughout western Guizhou. A writing system for the Bouyi language was devised in the 1950s and is used to record their rich folk literature.
Surrounded by karst hills, Anshun has one of Guizhou’s most scenic landscapes, despite the frequent gusts of coal dust from nearby mines. It also has numerous bustling street markets, and offers easy access to several of the surrounding traditional villages. The busy town center lies at the intersection of Nanhua Lu and Tashan Lu. The Bai Ta (White Pagoda), one of Anshun’s two surviving Ming structures, overlooks the center from Xixiu Hill. The other, Wen Miao, is a Confucian temple and lies in the town’s northeastern backstreets. The 600-year-old temple was once embellished with superb stone carvings. Today, what survives are its front pillars covered in beautiful spiraling dragons and considered to be the finest in the country.
The area around the city center bustles with rural commerce. Rows and rows of shops selling beautiful batik products, including wall hangings and colorful banners, are displayed outside the Batik Factory on Nanhua Lu.
Lying about 9 miles (15 km) east of Anshun, Yunshan is a fortified village, founded by Ming-dynasty troops. It contains a scattering of old structures, including the elegant Qiyan Qiao, a seven-arch bridge. Tiantai Shan, 16 miles (25 km) northeast of town, is a 1,300-ft (400-m) hill with a cluster of thickly-forested crags, whose summit is crowned by a Buddhist temple dating from 1616. Another 16 miles (25 km) southwest of Anshun, Zhenning County has a concentration of traditional Bouyi villages. The houses are built of skillfully-laid drystone walls, with roofs tiled in hand-cut slates, overlapping like fish scales. The village of Shishao, built almost entirely in stone, is known for its Ground Opera, a regional variation of traditional Han opera, brought here by soldiers from Nanjing during the Ming era.
filled out in red and orange
Several ethnic groups across southwestern China have been traditionally involved in creating batik. For almost 1,000 years, the Bouyi around Anshun have been using batik as a background to embroidery on clothing, and since the establishment of a factory in Anshun in the 1950s, have come to monopolize the indigenous textile market. The designs, which were originally of abstract plants and animals, are drawn with wax on cloth. The cloth is then dyed in indigo before being boiled to remove all traces of the wax, leaving the pattern in white on a blue background. The earlier monochromatic batiks have now given way to multi-colored, mass-produced designs, which include stylized representations of zodiac animals, scenes from Bouyi legends, and mythical creatures. Today, Anshun’s batik is in great demand across China.
Longgong Dong (Dragon Palace Caves) comprise a 9-mile (15-km) long complex of 90 or more caves, connected by an underground river. Only six caves, covering 2,800 ft (854 m), are open to exploration, accessed by boat through the flooded entrance, Tian Chi (Heaven’s Pool), which is partially concealed by a 130-ft (40-m) high waterfall. Inside, the largest cavern is about 260-ft (80-m) high. The caves are filled with colorfully-lit stalactites and stalagmites, and numerous oddly-shaped rock formations. During the rainy season, the boat ride ends at Tiger Lair, a broad platform from where visitors hike out of the caves and walk back to the entrance through an attractive stone forest of weathered karst spikes.
even during drier periods
- 31 miles (50 km) SW of Anshun
- 7am–6pm daily
Immensely popular in China, the Huangguoshu Da Pubu (Yellow Fruit Tree Falls) on the Sanche River rise to a height of 223 ft (68 m). During the summer rains in June and July the river becomes a torrent, and the 266-ft (81-m) broad curtain of water creates an awesome spectacle as it hits the Rhinoceros Pool below. It does not, however, rank as China’s largest cataract; in fact, during drier months, its flow shrinks to a pretty network of streams pouring over the rock face. Low water levels during this time of the year make it possible to wade across the streams. Staircases and bridges connect viewing areas opposite the falls. Shuilian Dong, a 440-ft (134-m) long tunnel, runs behind the falls, where natural “windows” look out through the curtain of water. Visitors should be prepared to get wet.
Of the remaining dozen-or-so water features along the Sanche, the pick of the crop lies upstream at Doupotang Falls, which though only a quarter of the height of Huangguoshu, are a staggering 340-ft (105-m) wide. About 3 miles (5 km) downstream at Tianxing are a series of small caves, some karst spires rising 66 ft (20 m), and the Yinlianzhuitan (Silver Chain Cascades), where water tumbles into a network of streams between rocky islets.
- 81 miles (130 km) N of Anshun
- 0857 781 2015
- from Anshun, via Zhijin town. Taxis also available
Extending for over 7 miles (12 km) into limestone hills, these 492-ft (150-m) high caves are ranked as the largest in China, and are also among the biggest in the world. They are located 16 miles (25 km) northeast of old, but rather unattractive, Zhijin town, which has a few guesthouses. Paths and stairways link the caves between fossilized waterfalls and elephantine stalactites and stalagmites. The imposing rock formations have each been given descriptive names, such as “Puxian Riding the Elephant,” “Goddess and Snake,” and the aptly named and impressive “Old Woman and Daughter-in-Law.”
The largest cavern, Guanghan Dong is about 1,312-ft (400-m) long. It contains the immensely elegant, 56-ft (17-m) stalagmite, known as the “Silver Rain Tree.” The obligatory guided tour, which lasts for more than 2 hours, requires a minimum of 10 people, so smaller groups may have to wait for more sightseers to arrive.
on the horizon
Weining & Cao Hai
A destitute area with coal mining as the main industry, western Guizhou has a rugged mountain landscape of karst hills and jungle. In the far west, bordering Yunnan, is the 7,200-ft (2,195-m) high Weining Plateau, whose main town is the small, chaotic, and ugly Weining, inhabited by Hui, Yi, and Da Hua Miao. The Muslim Hui, scattered throughout China, are descendants of Arab and Persian traders who came to China along the Silk Road during the Tang and Yuan dynasties. The Yi community number around 6.6 million and are spread through southwestern China. Their torch festival is a major annual event featuring archery contests, bonfires, and wrestling. The Da Hua Miao differ from the Miao near Kaili in both language and embroidery patterns, which feature the stylized flower motif, inspired by their name Da Hua, meaning “Big Flower.”
Immediately southwest of Weining is Cao Hai, known throughout China as one of the prominent spots for bird-watching. The 17-sq mile (45-sq km) nature reserve was set up in 1992. The shallow, blue, oval-shaped lake is ringed with low mountains and fringed with reedbeds that attract tens of thousands of wintering birds between November and March. Its most important annual visitors include a large flock of 400 endangered black-necked cranes, along with Eurasian cranes, barheaded geese, and several duck species.
It is possible to observe the abundant birdlife by either walking around the shore where the cranes congregate, or hiring a punt to approach flocks of wild fowl out on the lake. Boats can also be rented for a tour of the lake.
of Maling Canyon
Xingyi & Maling Canyon
- 186 miles (300 km) SW of Guiyang
- to Xingyi
- Maling Canyon White-water rafting arranged by hotels.
In the far southwestern corner of Guizhou, the small and remote market town of Xingyi is surrounded by low, rounded limestone hills and flat paddy fields. Northeast of Xingyi, just outside the suburbs, lies the 9-mile (15-km) long slash of Maling Canyon. About 330-ft (100-m) deep in places, the canyon has been carved by a fast-flowing river. Ground-level springs gush down mossy cliffs in miniature waterfalls. The river’s currents and cataracts make for exciting white-water rafting trips from Maling’s upper section, 16 miles (25 km) northeast of town. The canyon’s lower section features several walking tracks and bridges which zigzag down to the water level and then follow the river, sometimes through natural tunnels, for some distance upstream.
China’s Miao look to the area around Kaili and the ancient town of Zhenyuan as their homeland. In between, the terrain rises to rough hills, planted with pine trees and split by river valleys. A few villages maintain traditional wooden houses and cobbled streets; others are not so pretty, but host large festivals. Markets come close to a festival atmosphere and operate on a five-day cycle. Numerous buses run from Kaili, but to reach remoter places, hiring a taxi – or hiking – is necessary.
Kaili is a large town of busy streets and unremarkable architecture. Back-street markets add a bit of color, and there’s also a dusty Minorities Museum, displaying local silver and embroidery. Hilltop Dage Park is crowned by a wooden pagoda, unusual in its Daoist iconography and statues ritualistically smeared with bloody chicken feathers.
- 5 Guangchang Lu
into a steep valley
Langde & Xijiang
This route includes the most accessible traditional villages covered by buses from Kaili. Possible as a day-trip if you hire a taxi, otherwise, plan to overnight at Xijiang.
Langde is an easy 20-minute walk from the main road. It is entirely traditional, with 50 wooden houses knotted into a fold in the hillside. At Langde’s center is a pond and a dancing ground cobbled in concentric rings around a wooden pole adorned with buffalo horns and painted dragons.
Lei Shan is a down-at-heel collection of concrete buildings at the foot of Leigong Shan (7,150 feet, 2,178 m). Some of the region’s remotest villages are found on the mountain and it’s possible to organize hiking trips between them. From Lei Shan, it’s another 18 miles (30 km) on a dirt road to Xijiang, the largest Miao village at around 1,200 wooden homes. The best times to visit are during the autumn New Rice Tasting Festival, or Miao New Year celebrations.
There are several buses daily from Kaili via Taijiang and Shidong through to Zhenyuan. Both towns host major festivals, with extra transport during events. Each can be done as a daytrip, but Taijiang does have several hotels, and there’s a basic guesthouse in Shidong.
Taijiang is an untidy market town 34 miles (55 km) from Kaili. It transforms during Sisters’ Meal Festival, when thousands of villagers descend to watch Miao girls choose their husbands. At other times, the old village of Fanpai is a more photogenic place to spend a day.
Shidong is a partially wooden riverside village of half a dozen lanes. You can shop for beautifully designed silverwork and embroideries on market days, or see them worn during dragon-boat races, held at least twice a year. Afternoon races are accompanied by furious drumming, and the day winds down with a dance in which everyone present – sometimes 10,000 people – joins in.
Frequent buses ply the route from Kaili to Shibing; change here for connections to Zhenyuan. There’s some basic accommodations in Chong’an and hotels in Shibing.
Pleasantly rural Matang is home to the majority of Gejia, a Miao sub-group. The road passes close by, but you’ll need to hire a taxi from Kaili if you don’t want to walk the last 3 miles (5 km). About 6 miles (10 km) west of Matang, Xianglu Shan (4,265 feet/1,300 m) is where Zhang Xiumei, one of the leaders of the Miao Rebellion, was defeated bý government troops in 1873. An annual Hill Climbing festival is held here in his honor.
The riverside town of Chong’an uses its old core of wooden shops for a lively market, somewhere to experience crowds bargaining for everything from ducklings to home-made spirits. Right on the roadside, Feiyun Dong is a curious Daoist shrine founded in 1443, whose few moss-covered halls (one contains a museum of Miao artifacts) are built right into a natural arrangement of grottoes and vegetation. From Shibing, another nondescript place on the south bank of Wuyang He, it’s possible to arrange rafting trips down Shanmu Jiang, or to hike up Yuntai Shan, which features the ruins of a Ming-dynasty temple.
- 62 miles (100 km) NE of Kaili
- 26 Ximen Jie, Wuyangzhen
An old garrison town, Zhenyuan is squeezed by flanking cliffs into two long streets either side of Wuyang He. In the old town on the north bank, Qing-dynasty buildings with wavy eaves and ornate stonework have been carefully restored. East of the old town, a stone Ming bridge leads to Heilong Dong (Black Dragon Cave). This Daoist complex is built right into the over-hanging cliffs, where water seeps onto shrines dedicated to numerous deities. It’s also pos-sible to cruise a stretch of the Wuyang He east of Zhenyuan, through a series of limestone gorges.
Monument to the
Red Army Martyrs
mausoleum, Yang Can Mu
The largest city in northern Guizhou, Zunyi is encircled by a gray mass of cement factories and bustling transport terminals that conceal a quiet and clean older quarter, north across the river. The city holds a special place in the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In January 1935, Zunyi was invaded by the Red Army during the Long March. Having suffered major defeats at the hands of the Nationalists, Communist leaders including Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Otto Braun, the Soviet advisor, convened the Zunyi Conference. During the three-day meeting, Mao emerged as the party leader and severed ties with the Russians, a vital step that helped the CCP defeat the Nationalists and eventually emerge as China’s ruling party. The Conference Site, a sparsely-designed, gray brick house, displays CCP memorabilia. A similar building, in the lane behind, housed the China Soviet Republic State Bank and Commission of Expropriation & Collection, which printed banknotes and redistributed captured wealth among the peasantry. The adjacent Long March Museum, a former Catholic Church, displays CCP mementos. Up the river, in Fenghuang Shan Park, the Monument to the Red Army Martyrs commemorates the heroes of the Long March.
Red Army Martyrs, Zunyi
About 6 miles (10 km) south of Zunyi, Yang Can Mu is the final resting place of the local military official, Yang Can, who died around 1250. The stone reliefs of this well-preserved Songera mausoleum are beautiful, depicting plants, guardian figures, and dragons curling around an ornamental gateway. There is also a portrait of Yang Can in court robes.
- 112 miles (180 km) NW of Zunyi
On the banks of Chishui Jiang in northwestern Guizhou on the Sichuan border, Chishui is encircled by limestone hills. The subtropical forests covering these hills are divided into nature reserves, reached by minibus from town. The finest is Shizhang Dong, 23 miles (37 km) south of town, with a 236-ft (72-m) waterfall. Some 10 miles (16 km) southwest, Sidong Gou is a valley whose red-silted river gives Chishui its name, “Red Water.” It runs over four waterfalls and through a forest thick with bamboo. Locals harvest the edible bamboo shoots, and the mature stems are split and woven into matting. The region is also world famous for its baijiu , an alcoholic drink produced in Maotai, 50 miles (80 km) southeast in Xishui county.
- minibus from Chishui