Guilin – the Capital of Karst

Guilin is well known both at home and abroad for its unique landscape – the tropical tower karst. The city has a history of more than 2000 years. Literally, the name of the city means “the forest of sweet osmanthus trees” in Chinese. It is located in the Northeastern part of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The area has the largest population of Zhuang Nationality, one of the 56 nationalities in the “big Chinese family”.


The city Guilin is often considered the capital of karst. Then what is karst? The word “karst,is actually a regional name for a district in former Yugoslavia, an eastern European country where the stony and barren ground was its main features. Later, karst was used to describe the terrain with distinctive hydrology and landforms arising from a combination of high rock solubility and well – developed secondary porosity.

Theoretically, two kinds of tropical tower karst dominate the area: peak – forest plains and peak – cluster depressions. Xu Xiake (1587-1641),a great traveler and a pioneer karstologist during China’s Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), offered a systematic description of Karst in his famous Xu Xiake’s Travels. You can find a statue of Xu Xiake in front of the main buildings of the Institute of Karst Geology in Guilin.

The two kinds of tropical tower karat can find their own expressions in many scenic spots in the area, like Reed Flute Cave,Elephant Trunk Hill, Fubo Hill, and Western Hill. But Guilin does not only have hills and caves to offer. The trip to Guilin would be considered incomplete without a boat trip to Yangshuo Town. On the way, you may be treated with many local delicacies while drinking the local Sanhua wine. Yangshuo Town was small but famous. There’s even an old Chinese saying “While Guilin’s landscape is the best in the world; Yangshuo’s scenery is the best in Guilin”. The highlight of the trip is: enjoying the local flavor and the beautiful landscape as if a scroll of pictures of mountains and rivers were slowly unfolding at the same time. While in Yangshuo Town,a bicycle trip to the nearby Moon Hill will be a lifetime experience.

Fan Chengda, a poet of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), claimed in one of his famous poems that the peak forest landscape in Guilin is “Unparalleled on Earth” You may wonder whether a city deserves such an honor, but if you have a chance to visit Guilin one day, you will see it to believe it. You can see the perfectly developed tropical tower karst in different shapes, such as elephants, camels, horses, lions, lotuses or even hairpins, all you need is just a bit of imagination. Many visitors to Guilin are stunned by the beauty of the unique landscape – the tropical tower karst and its many famous scenes such as the Lijiang River, the Reed Flute Cave, Seven Star Cave and the nearby Yangshuo Town.

But there’s still far more than meet the eyes: Guilin rice noodles, pottery drums,masks of carved wood,feather fans and combs were all in great demand in the big Chinese market. Therefore,commerce, handicrafts and industry grow rapidly. Also noteworthy is its folk songs and dances. At night you can see many vendors selling all kinds of handicrafts even after you finish the many cultural shows of the Zhuang Nationality. Certainly, you can get a vigorous and dynamic picture of the beautiful Guilin city in south China.

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