China Travel Guide


Tai ji quan in the park
Tai ji quan in the park

Guilin is renowned for its karst peaks, most under 650 ft (198 m) high. Dotted throughout the city, they are particularly concentrated along the Li River to the south of town. Guilin dates back to the Qin era, and by the 6th century AD, its hills were already inspiring poets. Under the Ming, it emerged as a provincial capital, a position it lost in 1914 to Nanning. Guilin today is a tidy tourist city, with about 10 parks enclosing some fine peaks and limestone caves. Guilin means "Osmanthus Forest," and has an avenue of these sweet-scented trees along the riverside Binjiang Lu.

Gulin City Center

Tourist Information

Visitors' checklist

  • 260 miles (420 km) NE of Nanning
  • 620,000
  • Liangjiang International Airport
  • Guilin Train Station
  • Guilin Bus Station, CAAC (buses to airport), Minibus Station (to Yangshuo)
  • 11 Binjiang Lu, 0773 286 1623

Guilin city center

  • Fubo Shan 6
  • Jinjiang Prince's Palace & Duxiu Feng 5
  • Qixing Gongyuan 4
  • Rong Hu 1
  • Shan Hu 2
  • Xiangbi Shan 3
One of the two Riming Shuang Ta
One of the two Riming Shuang Ta

Rong Hu & Shan Hu

    * Rong Hu Bei Lu & Shan Hu Bei Lu * Pagodas daily

The conjoined Rong and Shan Lakes lie on either side of Zhongshan Lu, which runs through the heart of town. Originally a part of the Ming city's moats, the lakeshores have been paved and pleasantly planted with shady banyan and willow trees. On the shore of the westerly Rong Hu stands an 800-year-old banyan tree, which gives the lake its name. On the lake's northern shore lies Gu Nan Men, Guilin's old South Gate, the only remains of the Ming city walls. Several classical-style arched bridges join the two banks. Shan Hu, on the eastern side of Zhongshan Lu, is overlooked by the twin 130-ft (40-m) pagodas, Riming Shuang Ta, built in an antique style.

Xiangbi Shan

  • Off Minzhu Lu
  • 2, 58
  • from Nanhuan Lu.
  • 7am–6pm daily

The most famous of the city's rock formations, the 328-ft (100-m) high Xiangbi Shan (Elephant Trunk Hill), with a hole through one end, resembles the stylized form of an elephant taking a drink from the adjacent Li River. According to a local legend, a baggage elephant in an imperial convoy was abandoned by the riverside by an uncaring emperor after it became sick. Nursed back to health by an elderly couple, the elephant refused to rejoin the returning convoy and was killed by the emperor and turned into a hill, the one that stands here to this day. The small stupa at the summit is said to be the hilt of the emperor's sword sticking out of the elephant's back. Ferries can be taken from Nanhuan Lu to the hill. Along the path to the summit stands an old, crumbling pagoda.

Qixing Gongyuan

  • Qixing Lu
  • 7am–8pm daily
The pleasant Qixing Gongyuan (Seven Stars Park)
The pleasant Qixing Gongyuan
(Seven Stars Park)

The pleasant and lush Qixing Gongyuan (Seven Stars Park) covers an area of 1 sq mile (2 sq km) along the eastern shore of the Li River. It is named after the four peaks on Putuo Hill, and three on Crescent Hill. Seen together, the peaks form the shape of the Great Bear or Big Dipper constellation, which governs fate in Chinese mythology. Covered in thick scrub, they provide shelter to about 100 half-wild monkeys. There are several trails and pathways ascending to viewing pavilions.

Guilin's crags are renowned for their graffiti and caves. Crescent Hill is known for the 200-odd poems and commentaries carved into its overhangs, some of which are believed to date back to the Tang dynasty. Putuo Hill, which houses the 22-story high Putuo Si, is hollowed out by Qixing Yan (Seven Stars Cave), a broad cavern with a small subterranean waterfall and surprisingly few rock formations. The 246-ft (75-m) Luotuo Shan (Camel Hill), standing on its own to the north of the park, resembles a seated single-humped camel. From its summit, there are views of Chuan Shan (Hill with a Mole), and the adjacent Ta Shan (Pagoda Hill) with a Ming-dynasty pagoda.

Jinjiang Prince's Palace & Duxiu Feng

  • Off Xihua Lu.
  • daily

Complete with its own encircling wall and four gates, this palace resembles a miniature Forbidden City. It was originally built for the Ming prince Zhou Shouqian in 1372, pre-dating Beijing's palace by 34 years. Having housed 14 successive Ming princes, it later served as Sun Yat-sen's headquarters in the 1920s. Today, it houses the Guangxi Teacher Training College. A sloping marble slab, carved with clouds at the entrance, indicates an imperial residence, while the absence of the usual dragons indicates that the palace was for a prince, not an emperor.

Within the palace grounds lies Duxiu Feng (Solitary Beauty Peak), whose 707-ft (216-m) spike protects the palace from the unlucky northern direction. At its foot is a tag carved by the 5th-century governor Yan Yanzhi, extolling Guilin's charms. Steps lead to the summit, offering splendid views.

Fubo Shan

  • Binjiang Lu
  • daily

A tall, yellow-gray rock rising from the river, Fubo Shan is believed to calm the rough waters below, hence its name, "Wave-Subduing Hill." A crumbling temple on the peak houses a huge bronze bell and several hundred Buddha images from the Song era.

Colorfully illuminated formations inside Ludi Yan (Reed Flute Cave)
Colorfully illuminated formations
inside Ludi Yan (Reed Flute Cave)

Ludi Yan (Reed Flute Cave)

  • 3 miles (5 km) NW of city center
  • 3, 58
  • daily

Used as a hideout by Guilin's residents during the Japanese invasion in the 1940s, Ludi Yan (Reed Flute Cave) has 33-ft (10-m) tunnels winding for 1,640 ft (500 m) through Guangming Hill. Inside, its numerous rock formations are lit with neon lights. Please click here to read more information about Reed Flute Cave, Guilin.

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China Tours including trips to Guilin, China