Guilin is one of China's most picturesque cities, with a population of 670,000
and situated in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on the
west bank of the Lijiang River (also called the Li River). Its name means "forest
of Sweet Osmanthus", due to the large number of fragrant Sweet Osmanthus
trees located in the city. There is a famous Chinese saying "Guilin's
scenery is best among all
under heaven." Other than Han, there are several non-Han minority
ethnic groups who populate this area who include Zhuang, Yao, Hui, Miao, and
Guilin's scenery is unique both to China and to the rest of the world. Emerging
from a flat green plane laced with rivers and lakes the Karst formations are
steep, rounded towers of stone which stand in a line like battlements. This
bizarre range of peaks has caused Guilin to be immortalized in Chinese painting
The celebrated Tang Dynasty poet Han Yu (768-824) described the region this
way: "The river forms a green silk belt, the mountains are like blue
jade hairpins."The Karst formations were thrust up from the limestone
sea bed which covered the region some 300 million years ago. Eroded over centuries
by the area's unique wind and water conditions, this "stone forest," with
its many subterranean caves and rivers, creates a haunting atmosphere.
The stunning landscape in Guilin has a kind of magic that is all its own. The strangely shaped hills, or Karsts, with the verdant vegetation ranging
from bamboo to conifers together with wonderful caves make Guilin such an attraction
for tourists. The landscape in Guilin is remarkable. The natural wonders,
the song & dance of local ethnic minorities and the leisurely Li River
Cruise allow tourists to relax and enjoy the picturesque sights of the city.
Guilin is an important cultural city with a history
encompassing more than 2000 years. Guilin has been the political,
economic and cultural center in northeast Gui Region ever since
its founding. Guilin was first established by Emperor Qinshihuang
(214 BC) as the Guilin Shire. It was located on the Guixiang
"Corridor" which was an important passage connecting
Zhongyuan and Lingnan. During the Three-Kingdom period, the Wu
Kingdom built up Shi'an Shire here, and from then on Guilin has
come to be a political and transition center.
At the height of the Tang Dynasty, Guilin had become a relatively large city
with great halls and walls. During the Song Dynasty, Guilin was the capital
of Guangnanxilu, which governed Guangxi and Hainan Island. In the Ming Dynasty,
Guilin was also the seat of Jingjiang Prince Mansion and Guangxi Three Departments. Emperor Yongli had been here twice.
Canals were built through the city of Guilin so that food supplies could be
directly transported from the food-productive Yangtze plain
to the farthest southwestern point of the empire. The first Westerners ever
to see Guilin were Portuguese sailors taken prisoner by the Ming government
in 1550. In 1644, when the Manchu's came to power, the retreating Ming made
Guilin their capital.
In 1921, Guilin became one of the headquarters of the Northern Expeditionary
Army led by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen who had set up his residence here and directed
the northward expedition. It remained a provincial capital until 1912 and
briefly became the national capital again in 1936. In the wake of the Japanese
invasion of the 1930s, the exodus of Chinese nationals from northeastern China
caused Guilin's population to expand from 100,000 to over one million. Hundreds
of Western missionaries also sought refuge here. In 1940 Guilin was reset
as a city and the capital of Guangxi Province.
In 1981, this ancient
city was listed by the State
Council as one of the four cities (the other three being Beijing, Hangzhou
and Suzhou) under the protection of historical and cultural heritage, as well
as natural scenery, should be treated as a priority project.
an area of 27,809 square kilometers (10,734 square miles), Guilin is located
between 109 east longitude and 24 north latitude in the northeastern corner
of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; in the southwest of the Five Ridges and
the west bank of Li River in China.
Guilin rests of Karst topography which is a three-dimensional landscape shaped
by the dissolution of a soluble layer or layers of bedrock, usually carbonate
rock such as limestone or dolomite. The landscapes display distinctive surface
features and underground drainages, and in some examples there may be little
or no surface drainage.
The name Guilin translates to "Cassia Tree Forest" because of the
abundance of native Cassia trees. In the fall months, this tree releases the
most wonderful, sweet fragrance that gentle flows throughout the city for all
The city is rather compact when compared with other leading cities in the
country. However, situated within this area one may find green mountains,
crystal clear waters, unique caves and beautiful stones.
Tourism, agriculture and industrial sectors constitute the mainstay of Guilin's
economy. Tourism is the main engine responsible for driving Guilin's economic
growth. Since the government decided to develop Guilin as a major tourist
attraction in the late 1970s, many of the heavy industries have been moved
into outlying regions.
The recent improvement of Guilin's modern industrial capacity has also contributed
to the city's prosperity. Guilin mainly produces nitrogen fertilizers, spun
silk, cotton cloth, tires, medicines, rubber, machinery, and a wide range of
other items such as pharmaceutical goods, herbal medicine, tires, fertilizer,
silk, perfume, wine, tea, cinnamon, textile, weaving, writing brush, chemistry,
cement and pharmacy, etc.
Machine tool manufacturing gained prominence here during the Cultural Revolution
and today the city also supplies the country with iron equipment, electronic
components, semi-conductors and transistor radios. Traditional commodities
still produced here include wine, bean products, candy, pepper sauce, bamboo
chopsticks, and umbrellas.
The agricultural sector has also expanded as a result of the addition of irrigation
projects. Land in this region is good for growing vegetables and grains, naturally
arid, because much of the ground water sinks into the deep underground aquifer.
Guilin produces an abundance of agricultural products: shatian pomelo, summer
orange, fructus momordicae, ginkgo, moon persimmon, lipu tara, sanhua alcohol,
pepper sauce, fermented bean curd, Guilin rice noodle, water chestnut, grain,
dried bean milk cream in tight rolls, rice, bamboo, and cassia by-products
(tea, herbal medicines, fragrant oil, and a flavorful local wine). Fishing
and river commerce are also important to the local economy.
The scenery in Guilin is among the most beautiful in all of China. The hills
are the most magnificent green, the fields colorful, and the pinnacles unique
and intriguing. The Li River also winds its way through the city. Both sides
of the river are lined with many green hills that seem to spring up from the
ground as though a crop growing. This entire area is poetic and tranquil.
The colorful ethnic background lends a touch of mystery that enhances its
fame. The many ethnic minorities represented here include the Zhuang, Yao,
Hui, Miao, Mulao, Maonan and Dong. These many minorities enrich the cultural
life of the city. Each minority has its own unique customs and festivals
which means that they are much more abundant here than in many other places
elsewhere in China. Travelers can enjoy these pageants at the Li River
Folk Customs Center.
Major attractions include Elephant Trunk Hill, Li River, Reed Flute Cave
and Seven-Star Park that boasts a Stone Museum where amazing geological
finds are displayed.