The next seven or eight blogs entries will be about our trip to Guilin. I am going to do that to keep each one from being too long!
Guilin’s scenery draws tourists by the hundreds of thousands every year. The primary industry of Guilin is tourism. Guilin has a reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful places and ranks second on China’s list of the ten best tourist destinations, after Beijing. So yes, we did head to one of China’s biggest tourist sites during their longest national holiday. You will definitely read a bit about that in later blog entries.
Guilin was named after the osmanthus tree (Gui means osmanthus and lin means forest). These trees were not blooming when we visited, as it was still winter.
Guilin was first settled in the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). Guilin prospered and flourished during the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties under patronage from successive emperors. It is currently home to four ethnic minorities, the Zhuang, Meo, Yeo, and Dong.
Guilin has some of the most spectacular karst topography in the world. The tooth-like limestone mountains come in clusters, or as isolated monoliths, often with caves, and sometimes with holes all the way through, like Elephant Hill and Moon Hill in Yangshuo. They are scattered throughout the city itself, and there are many famous mountain sites in the countryside also.
Situated in the northeast of Guilin by the Li river, Folded Brocade Hill (Diecai Hill) is one of the most popular local attractions. It is known for its amazing scenery and stone carvings. It gained its name because of the resemblance of its rock formations, piled up layer upon layer on each other, to folded brocade. I didn’t see this “folded brocade appearance” myself Our guide said that the rock formations were 30 percent reality and 70 percent imagination, so not to feel bad if you don’t see the shape some of these hills are named for. And usually, I did not, so clearly 70 percent of my mind works differently than the ancient Chinese poets and painters!
Does this rock look like folded brocade to you? The white squares are where famous poems about Guilin are carved into the rock. Most of them are very old and worn, so you can barely read the Chinese characters.
The entrance walkway had these murals painted on the wall, to celebrate the New Year of the Snake. I was wondering how you make a snake look cute. Some animals, like rabbits or dogs, are easy to make looking cute and cuddly. I thought that snakes would be more of a challenge, but then I saw these murals. There was a mural for each month of the year, and each mural featured cute snakes involved in some activity. I took a photos of many of these murals, but I am just putting my favorite, the snake thinking or daydreaming in front of a computer screen, in the blog.
The highest point of Die Cai Hill is only 223 meters (732 feet) tall and it is a fairly easy climb to the top. This is the highest hill in Guilin city, so there is a great view from the top!
The red ribbons have Chinese characters for good fortune written on them, so people bring them up and tie them on every available surface at the top of the hill.
Diecai Hill is also known as Wind Cave Hill, due to the remarkable wind cave in the hill. The Wind Cave has wind blowing through it in all seasons. This cave has a wide mouth protruding from either side of the slope and a narrow part in the middle. Whatever the weather is outside, a cool breeze is always blowing in the Wind Cave. When we were there, the weather outside was cold, and the cave was warmer, because there was less wind and no rain in the cave!
Everywhere we went during this trip to Guilin, people would offer to take our photo in front of some scenic or historic site. They would then try to sell you the photos they had taken. This became annoying very quickly, as we could count on it happening several times wherever we went! Jeff is standing next to a statue here in front of Wind Cave. This was one of the many spots where they offered to take our photo for money. The photo I took below turned out better than the one that they were trying to sell us!
The cave is famous not only for its winds but for its rock carvings, both inside and outside of the cave. There are almost 100 Buddha images of the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, as well as 210 other stone carvings.
During the Cultural Revolution, most of the carvings were defaced by having their heads chiseled off. The darker black color is the recent restoration work done to repair the carving’s damage.
This carving was the only one that was not defaced. It is also one of the earliest carvings in the cave.
There was also a golden Happy Buddha inside Wind Cave. Everyone else in the tour group was asked to buy incense for a donation here except me. I don’t know if it was because they assumed I was not a Buddhist, or if it was because they did not speak English!