Well-known both at home and abroad for its verdant hills, limpid waters, fantastic caves, and exquisite rocks, Guilin has enjoyed the reputation of having the country's most beautiful scenery for hundreds of years. Guilin is a bright pearl on the list of China's top tourist attractions and the Li River is the highlight of sightseeing tours in Guilin. Originating in Mao'er (Cat) Mountain in Xin'an county northeast of Guilin, the Li River winds its way southeast for about 426 km.
Li River cruise takes visitors from Guilin to Yangshuo. A state-level scenic area, it is the centerpiece of your Guilin tour, as well as one of the highlights of any China tour. This section of the Li River appears like a classic Chinese ink painting with its green hills, crystal water, verdant bamboo, and clear water reflection. The great Tang Dynasty poet Han Yu vividly described the landscape as "the river winds like a green silk ribbon, while the hills are like jade hairpins".
From Guilin to Yangshuo, the Li River gracefully flows over 83 kilometers and the banks of the river offer the most beautiful scenery. The natural beauty of the Li River is indeed beyond description. You will have to visit this amazing place, to witness it with your own eyes and feel it with your own heart.
The comfortable Li River cruise will take approximately 4 hours, carrying you away from the bustle of city life and into a peaceful and relaxing world. The only thing you need to do is bring your imagination, and a camera, and keep your eyes open, as the stunning Karst landscape will give you a surprise around each bend of the Li River that flows under the clear blue sky. Your tour guide will tell you the legends behind the different peaks, most of which are mythical tales, and love stories. For example, Wangfu Rock (yearning for husband's return) is so-named because it looks like a woman carrying her baby on her back and yearning for her husband's return after a long day of working on the river.
The Crown Cave (Guanyan):
Crown Cave, located 29km south of Guilin city, is relatively new to the Guilin tour industry, having been opened to the public in 1995. Visitors can get there by bus from Guilin or make a stop at the Crown Cave Dock during your cruise along the Li River.
Half-Side Ferry (Ban Bian Du):
Not very far from the Crown Cave on the western bank, a huge rock descends into the river and cuts off a footpath by the water edge. Villagers have to take a ferry to reach the other side and continue on their way. It has been named Half-Side Ferry. The ferry precipices of the Half-Side Ferry are cut so smoothly that they seem to have been cut by a knife. It is a rare natural occurrence.
Cruising down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo, you will see local fishermen at work on their simple bamboo rafts.
Nine Horse Mural Hill:
The hills and peaks in Guilin, crafted by nature, rise sharply from the ground in many different shapes. Each famous peak along the Li River has been given a name based on its shape. Some peaks, however, require a great deal of imagination to see how they got their name. One of the most famous peaks along the Li River is the 416-meter-high Nine Horse Mural Hill. The precipice of the Mural Hill is even and straight as if cut by a knife, decorated with colors of white, yellow, gray and black. Images of nine horses may be seen indistinctly on the precipice, hence the name Nine Horse Mural Hill.
Yellow Cloth Shoal:
Floating downstream, after passing Mural Hill, you will find the Yellow Cloth Shoal. The cliffs are steeper and the river becomes wider and calmer here, so it is the best place to appreciate the reflections of the verdant peaks. It is no wonder that the newly-issued RMB20 note carries the image of this part of the river. The water is so limpid that the reflection of a huge yellow flagstone can be clearly seen on the water. It is like a yellow cloth spreading across the countryside, hence the name Yellow Cloth Shoal.
As you reach the area surrounding Xingping village, some of the most striking scenery along the Li River comes into view. The short distance between Xingping and Yucun villages is the highlight of the cruise.
The river takes a big turn at Xingping and the beautiful landscape and country scenery will form a lifelong impression on visitors. Verdant bamboo greet visitors along the river while water buffalo eat grass casually on the fields, peasants harvest their crops, school children play on the way home, and fisherman float along on bamboo rafts with their cormorants.
Yucun (a fishing village):
The pretty village of Yucun on the left bank of the river is worth a visit. The villagers all have the same surname as Zhao. The 500-year--old village, which can only be reached by boat, was a highlight of American President Bill Clinton's cruise down the Li River in July of 1998.
Most of the courtyard buildings in the village were built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. Simple but elegant with flying eaves, carved beams and windows, these buildings are ancient architectural wonders. Visitors are often surprised by the openness and generosity of the villagers when they find themselves warmly greeted by farmers in any farmhouse they call at.
Both Dr. Sun Yet-sun, the pioneer of China's democratic revolution, and former US President Clinton visited this Chinese tourism Mecca. They are really a great advertisement for Yucun. The President stated he was greatly impressed with the popularization of biogas and solar energy in Yucun, which has completely replaced wood as the fuel for the 120 households in the village.
Destination - Yangshuo County:
Yangshuo is the Li River cruise's destination. It is located 65 kilometers south of Guilin city. An ancient saying goes "Guilin has the most beautiful scenery in China, but the landscape of Yangshuo is unmatched in Guilin". It is this unmatched landscape that has made this small county known to the world. The perfect way to appreciate its beauty is by bicycle, as the scenery along the road is dramatic and the natural beauty is truly beyond description. Yangshuo is an ideal place for moderate hiking or cycling excursions to get a taste of genuine rural life.
It is a wonderfully pastoral area, with small villages. In most of these villages, even new buildings tend to use the older style of architecture. The owners are often keen to show visitors around.
Things to see and do in Yangshuo:
In Yangshuo, there is a 1500-year-old Big Banyan Tree whose branches and roots spread over a large area close to the river. Moon Hill (Yueliangshan) is a great limestone pinnacle with a naturally-created moon-shaped passage going through just below its summit. Fascinating Yinzi Cave (Silver Limestone Cave), 3 kilometers away from Yangshuo County, was praised by French experts on karst geology as "a world treasury of karst caves".
If you stay overnight in Yangshuo, West Street and Impression Liu Sanjie are two attractions not to be missed.
West Street of Yangshuo is an old street with a history of more than 1,400 years. Every year hundreds of foreign visitors come to live here for a while and some of them settle down permanently in this small county just to enjoy its leisurely life and keep in touch with nature. A special feature of the street is the communication and interchange between Chinese and foreign cultures. You can learn Chinese, calligraphy, tai chi, cooking, and Chinese chess while passing international languages and cultures to Chinese in bars, shops, or schools. Because of this, people in China called it "Foreign Street". West Street is lined with Chinese and western cafes, restaurants and hotels. It is a seamless blend of eastern and western culture and has helped give the area a "global town" image.
Impression LiuSanjie (Third Sister Liu), directed by China's most famous movie director Zhang Yimou, is an outdoor performance on the natural stage setting formed by the Li River and 12 peaks. This performance expresses the beautiful scenery of the Li River, and the colorful culture of the ethnic groups in Guangxi by creatively combining the classical Third Sister Liu's Songs, ethnic minority culture, and the lights of traditional fishermen on the river, to reflect the harmonious atmosphere between human beings and nature. The performance lasts for 70 minutes and over 600 actors and actresses are involved.
After touring Yangshuo and enjoying the stunning countryside landscape, you will take the bus back to Guilin (about a 1-hour drive).
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