Jinkeng Red Yao Terraced Fields

The Jinkeng Terraces are the lesser known, less tourist oriented portion of the Longji Rice Terraces Scenic Area. Jinkeng is made up of several small villages, including Dazhai, Tiantou, Zhuangjie, Xinzhai and Xiaozhai, with Dazhai and Tiantou being considered the most scenic. The Jinkeng portion of the rice terraces is actually much larger than that of Ping’an village or Longji Ancient Zhuang Village but, because of the poor condition of the roads leading into the villages, it has yet to become as popular with tourists. The Jinkeng Terraces stretch up the mountains from 800 metres to a colossal 1,180 metres above sea level and their highest mountain, Fupingbao, is 1,900 metres at its peak. The hiking opportunities in Jinkeng are tremendous and we strongly recommend anyone looking for an adventure holiday in the rice terraces to opt for the villages of Dazhai or Tiantou as their base.

The main scenic spots in Jinkeng are Xishan Shaoyue or “Musical West Hill”, Dajie Thousand-Layer Terraces, and Golden Buddha Peak. Xishan Shaoyue is the first viewing platform on the mountains and offers a wonderful vantage point of the rice terraces. It is the easiest of the three scenic spots to get to and should only take about 2 hours to reach on foot. It’s a superb place to watch the sun rise and set over the rice terraces and it offers the broadest view of the Jinkeng Terraced Fields. Dajie Thousand-Layer Terraces is near to Xishan Shaoyue and there is a well-kept path on a gentle gradient leading to it so it is fairly easy to reach on foot. This area is particularly impressive due to the sheer number of rice terraces carved out of the mountains below, which perfectly exhibit the industrious work of the farmers who built them. It also offers an ideal view of the Yao villages below and is considered the perfect place to watch the sunrise.

Golden Buddha Peak is the only scenic spot that has cable car access in the Longji Scenic Area and this is simply because it is so far away! The cableway is about 1,580 metres long and takes just 20 minutes to reach the peak, although you do have to pay extra to ride the cable car. Otherwise, it’s about a 3 hour hike to reach the top, but this hike does reward you with stunning views of the rice terraces as you ascend the mountain. Golden Buddha Peak is considered the best scenic spot in Jinkeng and offers the most spectacular views of the rice terraces, particularly at sunset. If you’re feeling adventurous or you’re making an overnight stay in Dazhai or Tiantou, we strongly recommend taking the hike up the Golden Buddha Peak. Trust us, watching the sun set across the cascading mountains is a more than suitable reward.

The Jinkeng Red Yao Terraces are so named because the majority of the villages in the Jinkeng area are home to the Red Yao ethnic minority. These are a branch of the Yao ethnic minority that are named for their traditional dress. On festival occasions, the Red Yao women will wear a vibrant red coat and black pleated skirt, hence the name “Red” Yao. Yao women are also famous for growing their hair long and the best place to witness this unusual tradition is in nearby Huangluo Village.

The best time to visit the Jinkeng Rice Terraces is between April and late October, as this is when the farmers will be planting the rice. Each season affords different views of the rice terraces, so choose when you want to go carefully!

Dazhai (大寨)

“Dazhai” literally means “Large Village” in Chinese and, unsurprisingly, Dazhai is one of the largest villages in the Jinkeng area. Over 1,000 people live in the village of Dazhai and over 98% of them are from the Yao ethnic minority. Dazhai is far less crowded than Ping’an but is still reasonably well-equipped for tourism. There are just over 30 hotels and hostels in Dazhai and a number of restaurants. Although these hotels tend to be wooden and are not equipped with as many modern amenities as those in Ping’an, they offer a far more rustic feel and make you feel as though you are truly part of the village. On top of visiting the rice terraces, many of the local Yao people in Dazhai will gladly welcome you into their home and offer a glimpse of their simple, rural lifestyle.

Tiantou (田头)

“Tiantou” literally means “Head of the Fields” or “Farms” in Chinese and this aptly demonstrates the rustic atmosphere of this small village. Although Tiantou is smaller than Dazhai, it is located far closer to Xishan Shaoyue and Dajie Thousand-Layer Terraces. There are a handful of hotels in Tiantou, which make it the perfect place for an overnight stay should you wish to catch the sunrise at either of these scenic spots.

Quanjinglou or “Panorama Lodge” is considered to be the best hotel in the Jinkeng area and can be reached from both Dazhai and Tiantou. It is located not far from the Xishan Shaoyue scenic spot and has 26 rooms, which all offer outstanding views of the rice terraces.

bamboo-tube riceDining

Like Ping’an, the local cuisine in Dazhai and Tiantou is simple. Popular local dishes include bamboo-tube rice, smoked bacon fried with bamboo shoots, braised chicken, and fresh vegetables fried in oil. Many of the ingredients for the dishes will be locally sourced and taste incredibly fresh. A handful of restaurants and guesthouses in the area will offer some simple Western food, such as pizza or French fries.

How To Get There

You first need to take the express bus from Guilin to Longsheng County Town, which takes about 2 hours. The buses between Guilin and Longsheng are very regular and usually run at 15 minute intervals. In Longsheng you’ll need to purchase your tickets for the rice terraces. From Longsheng, you’ll need to take a bus to Dazhai Parking Lot, which can take up to 2 hours. At the parking lot, you can either make the short walk to Dazhai or walk to Tiantou, which takes about half an hour. Please be advised that the last bus back to Longsheng leaves from Dazhai Parking Lot at 4pm every day, so if you’re taking a daytrip to the rice terraces then you should aim to arrive and leave early.

Moon Hill

moon hill 01

The Chinese believe there is a palace on the moon known as Guanghan Palace. It is home to the legendary figures Chang’e, the Jade Rabbit and Wu Gang the Woodcutter. According to Chinese mythology, they are responsible for the spots and shadows you see on the moon. On the roof of Moon Hill, you can see stalactites that greatly resemble these mythical characters. Perhaps they’ve become bored of the moon and decided to live on its beautiful earthly counterpart instead!

Moon Hill is located just outside of Yangshuo and just south of the Jingbao River. At its summit, it reaches 380 metres (1,250 ft.) above sea level and is 410 metres (1,350 ft.) in length. The “moon” of Moon Hill was once a cave that eroded over time to form a wide, semi-circular hole close to the summit. This hole, or arch, is 50 metres (about 160 ft.) high and approximately 50 metres wide. If you look at Moon Hill from different angles, it can appear to be a full moon or a crescent moon and, if you position yourself at exactly the right spot, you can make it look as though you are “holding” the moon in the palm of your hand.

moon hill 02There is an 800-step path that leads to this arch and then a further, rockier path that leads to the mountain’s summit. The marble stairway was established in 1981 and is called “Appreciating Moon Path”. It is relatively easy to climb and takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the arch. The path leading to the summit is on a much higher gradient and is much more overgrown, so it can take another 20 minutes just to reach the top. However, whether you climb to the arch or brave the summit, the view from Moon Hill is truly spectacular. This vantage point offers you panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and is the perfect place to take some stunning photographs of Yangshuo County.

Moon Hill also boasts several rock-climbing routes of varying difficulties, most of which were pioneered by the American climber Todd Skinner in the 1990s. The mountain boasts over 14 climbing routes, among which the notorious “Moonwalker” is considered one of the most challenging.

Moon Hill is within cycling distance of Yangshuo and, in an effort to promote tourism in the area, the government established a bicycle path there known as the Ten-Li Gallery. Li is a Chinese unit of measurement that roughly equates to half a kilometre (1,600 ft.) and along this ten li (50 km) path there are numerous mountains worth visiting. These mountains have been given fanciful names according to their shapes, such as the Flaming Mountain, the Heavenly Horse Gallops into the Sky, the Golden Cat Comes Out of the Hole, and the Beautiful Girl Puts on Her Make-up. A series of caves, including Black Buddha Cave, Dragon Cave, and New Water Cave, have also been opened along the path to Moon Hill. Some of these caves even contain mud baths and hot springs where tourists can enjoy their own, private spa.

There are two cycling routes from Yangshuo to Moon Hill. The older one tends to be full of vendors that will try to sell you snacks or souvenirs on your way. The newer one takes longer but is much quieter and takes you through the scenic, ancient village of Longtan or “Dragon Pond”. Longtan is located just behind Moon Hill and many of its houses are hundreds of years old. Walking through this rural town is like taking a trip back in time. The town derives its name from the pond directly behind it, which is also called Dragon Pond. This pond has been used by locals to wash their clothes and vegetables for hundreds of years.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village (Guzhuang Village)

Compared to its northern cousin Ping’an, Longji Ancient Zhuang Village is relatively isolated from the outside world and has yet to be embraced as a tourist attraction. Its Chinese name, “Guzhuang Zhai” (古壮寨), literally means “Ancient Zhuang Village” in Chinese, so it is often referred to as “Longji Ancient Zhuang Village” to differentiate it from other Zhuang villages. The “Zhuang” in its name refers to the vast numbers of people from the Zhuang ethnic minority who call this village home. Guzhuang village boasts over 200 households and a population of approximately 1,000 Zhuang people, making it technically larger and more populous than Ping’an.

Guzhuang is located about 5 kilometres east of the town of Heping and 3 kilometres southwest of Ping’an. Like Ping’an, it provides access to the Longji Rice Terraces, although there are few designated scenic spots along Guzhuang’s rice terraces as the area has not yet been geared up for tourism. The rice terraces surrounding Guzhuang are far quieter, less crowded and seemingly more natural than those of Ping’an. This is because their primary purpose is rice cultivation and not tourism. Guzhuang is the perfect rural retreat for anyone who has become tired of the bustling crowds and tourist atmosphere of Ping’an.

Guzhuang village has been home to the Liao Family Tribe, Hou Family Tribe, Pingduan Tribe and Pingzhai Tribe for over 400 years. The whole of the village’s population is made up of members from the Liao family, the Hou Family, and the Pan family, which form the four tribes. These families belong to the Baiyi or “White Clothes” branch of the Zhuang ethnic minority and are characterised by their beautifully embroidered white shirts. In keeping with its ethnic aesthetic, Guzhuang village also has the largest collection of Zhuang Diaojiaolou in China. Diaojiaolou are traditional three-storey wooden houses that have been built on large stilts in order to protect the inhabitants from insects and snakes, although styles of Diaojiaolou vary between the different ethnic minorities. The Diaojiaolou in Guzhuang are some of the oldest in the country and some even date back over 100 years.

For the benefit of visitors, one of the oldest Diaojiaolou has been opened to the public so that tourists can get an idea of what it is like living in these traditional wooden houses. Walking through these old buildings endows any visitor with a wonderful feeling of peace and many tourists spend over half a day simply wandering through the village and getting lost in its antiquated beauty. There is also a museum in the village that is dedicated to the history, culture and customs of the Zhuang ethnic minority. The museum is full of fascinating artefacts, detailed historical accounts, and traditional dress of the Zhuang people.

Other architectural features of the village dating back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties have been wonderfully well preserved and exhibit the extensive heritage of Guzhuang. These include the Longquan Pavilion, the Site of the Military Camp, the Clean and Honest Politics Stele (Lianzheng Stele) and several water mills. The stone bridges in the village are perhaps the most elaborate structures of all. There are 300 of these stone bridges scattered throughout the Longji Rice Terrace Scenic Area, 57 of which can be found in Guzhuang. These bridges have been delicately carved with images of lotuses, swords and the eight trigrams of Bagua[1] theory. The finest of these bridges is called “Three Fish Share One Head”, which is a Wind-Rain bridge located just in front of the village’s administrative office.

To get to the village, you first need to take an express bus from Guilin to Longsheng County Town or Heping Town, which takes about 2 hours. From Longsheng or Heping, you have to transfer onto another bus heading to Guzhuang village. Alternatively, you can hike from Ping’an village to Guzhuang, which only takes about an hour. Unfortunately there are currently no established hostels or hotels in Guzhuang village and the village itself is lacking in many modern amenities, so staying there overnight is not an option. However, nearby Ping’an village has over 80 hotels and hostels that are ready to welcome any weary traveller hiking back from Guzhuang.

[1] Bagua: The eight trigrams used in Taoist philosophy to represent the fundamental principles of reality. In their most simplified form, they symbolise the sky, the lakes, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountains and earth respectively.

Guangxi Museum

guangxi museum

Unlike the staid, quiet museums that we’re used to in the West, Guangxi Museum is a vibrant establishment of living history, with live performances, interactive exhibits and a wealth of cultural resources. The museum stretches over a phenomenal area of just over 32,000 square metres or about 4 and a half football pitches! Guangxi Museum is just east of Qiyi Square in Nanning city, but be sure to set aside plenty of time to visit it, as walking between exhibits alone will leave you exhausted. If you plan your journey carefully, you should even be able to take part in a few of the demonstrations at the Cultural Heritage Centre.

Guangxi Museum is particularly famous for its impressive collection of bronze drums. Some of these drums date all the way back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476B.C.) and, with 360 of the 610 in existence, Guangxi has the largest collection in the world. Among the 60 bronze drums that are currently on display, there is one referred to as the “King of Bronze Drums” because it is the largest of its kind in the world. Being the largest bronze drum may not seem that impressive at first, but when you consider that this drum weighs more than two baby elephants, you can see why they call it the King.

Yet drums aren’t the only thing on offer. The museum houses over 50,000 cultural relics whose histories stretch over thousands of years. There’s an 800,000-year-old hand-axe, a huge and mysterious spade from the Neolithic Age (c. 8500-2100 B.C.), a wooden tablet that was inscribed during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.), a mystical bronze basin with fairy-tales carved into it, and a bronze horse that is nearly 1.5 metres (3.7 ft.) tall. Amongst the strange wonders, antiquated paintings, revolutionary documents, and ancient books that make up the many exhibits, you’ll probably start to feel a little overwhelmed!

Guangxi museumNot to worry, Guangxi Museum has a light-hearted side too. As you pass through the many exhibitions, you’ll come upon the Guangxi Folk Customs Exposition. This is a sequence of exhibits featuring cultural artefacts and historical information about 11 of the resident ethnic minorities, including the Zhuang, Yao, Miao, Dong, Shui, Hui, Yi, Gelao, Mulao, and Maonan people. The vibrant colours of the festival outfits and the charming legends of these ethnic minorities make a stark contrast to the sombre atmosphere of the other exhibits and will add a touch of excitement to your museum tour. After looking at so much tantalising jewellery and reading about so many delicious local dishes, you’ll want to rush to the nearest small village to have a try!

But there’s no need to travel all the way to ethnic villages like Huangluo or Dazhai. The Guangxi Museum has added a Cultural Heritage Centre where visitors can watch performances by members of the aforementioned ethnic groups. The centre is so large that it also contains replicas of various ethnic structures, including drum towers, wind-and-rain bridges, and typical village gates. This section of the museum boasts a more interactive approach to history, where visitors can participate in antiphonal singing, dance with the performers, learn the traditional way of making bean curd (tofu), wine, and soya-bean milk, and join in a number of other folk activities. Here you can sing your heart out, dance till you drop, and sample some of the finest delicacies that the ethnic minorities of Guangxi have to offer.


With its silvery beaches, sparkling waters, delectable array of seafood, and abundance of glittering pearls, once you get to Beihai you’ll never want to leave! Beihai is a tropical paradise nestled on the Gulf of Tonkin at the southernmost point of Guangxi. Its name literally means “north of the sea” because that’s precisely where it is. Two thousand years ago, Beihai was one of the main ports of the Maritime Silk Road, providing Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan, and Hubei with access to foreign trade. Nowadays it provides foreign tourists with an opportunity to marvel at the aquatic wildlife, work on their tans, or sample some of the freshest seafood in Guangxi. If only they could export such wonderful products!

The climate in Beihai is subtropical, so it benefits from luxuriously hot weather. The average annual temperate is about 22°C, but in the summer months it can reach highs of 37°C. We recommend visiting the city between April and November, as these months benefit from the most sunshine. The springs and summers are characteristically wet, so you’ll need to bring an umbrella, but the autumns are dry and still pleasantly warm. Throughout the year, the cool sea breeze rushes through the city and provides the locals with fresh, salty sea air. Winter is the driest season but is unusually cold, making poor beach weather. Unless you enjoy sitting on the beach in your coat that is!

With a population of only 1.5 million people, Beihai is a relatively small city so you won’t be competing with too many people for the best beach spots. The city’s Silver Beach is one of the most celebrated beaches in China and boasts rare grey-white quartz sand, which is what gives it its distinctly silvery appearance. At night, the moonlight bouncing off of this silvery sand, coupled with the fluorescent seaweed in the water, makes it appear as though the beach is glowing. Near to the beach, there’s a sea-life centre called Underwater World. It features over 2,800 species of aquatic plant life and over 670 species of aquatic animal, all arranged according to their evolutionary order. A few of the main attractions include exhibits of the rare Dugong, Chinese White Dolphin, and cowfish, and the centre’s trusty mascot, a 600-year-old turtle.

If you’re more interested in the history of Beihai, we recommend visiting the Old Street in the centre of the city, where the remains of several old colonial buildings are preserved, or taking a cruise to the nearby islands of Weizhou and Xieyang. These islands are the perfect places to learn about the fishing cultures of the Tanka or Dan people, from the Hao Dan who catch oysters to the Zhu Dan who dive for pearls and the Yu Dan who make a modest living catching fish. One of the more bizarre attractions on Weizhou Island is a 100-year-old Catholic Church, which sits near to the volcanic park. I suppose it’s easy to imagine what fire and brimstone is like when it’s just outside the door! In the nearby county of Hepu, you can also visit some newly excavated tombs from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.), along with a stunningly well restored temple.

At the centre of the city, in Beibuwan Square, there’s a tall monument that represents the Pearl of the South. Beihai’s most popular commodity is its pearls, particularly its southern pearls, so it’s the perfect place to buy pearl jewellery for your loved ones or yourself. The best quality pearls are from Hepu County but these can only be bought in eight, designated shops littered throughout Beihai. Along with pearls, shell carving, horn carving, and bamboo woven craftworks are prevalent in the city and make for lovely souvenirs.

Unfortunately, the only thing you can’t take away with you is the seafood! Seafood is everywhere in Beihai and, unlike Shanghai and Hangzhou, it is very cheap. Many of the famous local delicacies, such as tiger-fish soup, spicy fried shrimp, ginger-spotted crab, steamed sea oyster and steamed fish with plums, use ingredients that were freshly caught offshore or grown locally. The subtropical climate makes it the perfect place for growing a variety of fruits, which make tasty snacks and perfectly complement the salty seafood with their refreshing sweetness.

If you’re feeling particularly brave, you may want to try two of the most popular local delicacies: scalded sand worm and steamed sea cucumber. Although these dishes may look like something out of a science fiction movie, they are actually quite delicious! If you want to sample the freshest seafood in the city, we recommend heading to Seafood Island (Waisha) on the northern shore, where there are many small restaurants offering a variety of tantalising dishes and snacks. The night markets that pop up throughout the city at dusk also offer a myriad of exotic dishes to suit every palate.

Since Beihai is one of the lesser known tourist cities in China, accommodation there is still relatively cheap. There are a number of hotels and hostels of varying standards scattered through the city, although we strongly recommend you pay extra to get a room with an air conditioner. Many hotel owners will still barter with visitors, so take a look at the room first and then try to bargain with the hotelier. You never know, they might be so impressed with your bargaining skills that they’ll give you the room for free!

Jingjiang Princes City

Jingjiang Princes City01

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to be a Chinese royal, or ever wanted to see just how difficult the imperial examinations used to be, Jingjiang Princes City is the ideal place to find out. It is commonly referred to as Jingjiang Princes Palace or Wang Cheng which, though similar in pronunciation, we assure you bears no connection to the 1980s band “Wang Chung”. This small “city within a city” was built during the Ming Dynasty, from 1372 to 1392. However, it tragically suffered heavy damage during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Nowadays, many of the ancient buildings have been rebuilt and, though it may not all be authentic, it’s still as beautiful as it was hundreds of years ago.

It is located within Guilin City and greatly resembles its larger cousin; Beijing’s Forbidden City. Jingjiang City’s history stretches back over 630 years, which actually makes it older than the Forbidden City. It was originally built for the royal Zhu Shouqian, who was the great-nephew of the first Ming Dynasty Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu Shouqian was declared Prince of Jingjiang by his granduncle and it was decided his palace would be set in Guilin. The placement of the palace was specific, as Zhu Shouqian was expected to keep tabs on the southern regions of the Chinese empire and thus aid his granduncle’s rule. Over the course of 257 years, 14 princes from 12 different generations would rule from this palace. Considering only 6 monarchs have lived in Buckingham Palace, managing to last long enough to house 14 of them is no mean feat!

Nowadays the palace acts as part of the Guangxi Normal University campus and as a tourist attraction. The current city is made up of 4 halls, 4 pavilions, and 40 smaller buildings, with a 1,500-metre-long city wall made up of beautiful blue flagstones. Like the Forbidden City, the layout of the buildings is symmetrical and focuses on a central axis, so sometimes it may feel as though you’re walking through a geometric puzzle! The Solitary Beauty Peak is at the northernmost point of the axis. From north to south you’ll find the Imperial Burial Place, Chengyun Palace and Chengyun Gate, and from east to west there’s the Imperial Divine Temple and the Ancestral Temple. All of the other buildings are around these main buildings in a symmetrical pattern. In-keeping with this symmetry, there are four gates on the four points of the compass, known as “Tiren” (Donghua Gate), “Duanli” (Zhengyang Gate), “Zunyi” (Xihua Gate) and “Guangzhi” (Hougong Gate).

Chengyun Palace

This palace was built in 1372 and functioned as the administration office of the city. However, the palace was burned down twice; once during the Qing Dynasty and once during the Japanese invasion. It was rebuilt in 1947 but the carved balustrades and marble steps are all that remain of the original palace.

Solitary Beauty Peak

Most poets write about beautiful women, but the Song Dynasty (420-589) poet Yan Yanzhi evidently had a thing for mountains. In one of his poems he described this peak in the line “the beauty of this solitary peak surpasses all those around it”, and this is how the peak earned its name. It looks like a column jutting out of the earth and makes for quite the sight in a princes palace. Its summit is about 216 metres (about 709 ft.) above sea level and rewards any visitor with a panoramic view of Guilin.

At the foot of the peak, you’ll find the crescent shaped Yueya Pond. The Sun Yat-sen[1] Memorial Tower, built in 1921, rests on the bank of this pond. Moving up the peak, you’ll find Xuanwu Pavilion, Kwanyin Hall, Sanke Temple, and Sanshen (Three Deities) Ancestral Temple. Climbing the peak will hardly feel like a chore when you have so many places to stop and rest.

Study Cave

This cave sits at the east foot of the peak and has become famous for the engravings on its interior, which include an inscription of Yan Yanzhi’s poem and an 800-year-old carving of the famous Chinese saying “the scenery in Guilin is the greatest under heaven”. It is rumoured that, over 1,500 years ago, Yan Tingzhi, the governor of Guilin, often studied here. If you thought your schoolrooms were bad, imagine working inside a cave!

The Examination Rooms

These rooms were established during the Qing dynasty and are supposedly blessed with very good Feng Shui[2], which the residents of Guilin believe was responsible for the success of their local scholars. Guilin’s scholars were so successful at the imperial examinations that it spawned the popular saying “eight Jinshi[3] from one county and two Zhuangyuan[4] from one city”. Many of the attractions in the city, such as the “Sanyuan Jidi” Hall and the “Zhuangyuan Jidi” arch, are dedicated to these scholars. This site has recently been restored and tourists can now take a simulation of the imperial examination. Visitors must enter the hall, use ink brushes to answer the test papers, and then wait to receive their results. If they succeed, they are dressed in the traditional garb of a scholar and rewarded with a certificate.

The Confucian Temple

The Confucian Temple served as an adjunct to the Examination Rooms. In ancient times, before the scholars took the imperial examination, they would first offer sacrifices to Confucius. It was believed that the success of local scholars was in part due to this temple.

The Fortune Well

Many students arriving to take the imperial examination believed that this well would bring them good fortune and would often drink the blessed water beforehand. Perhaps you should have a drink too; you might end up with a Nobel Prize!

The Couple Tree

A locust tree and a banyan tree that have grown together like an embracing couple. They are said to have branches in the shape of a tiger and a horse.

Secret Underground Corridor

In 1977, a secret corridor was discovered within the compound that leads to the Li River. The last prince of the Ming Dynasty used this corridor to carry his treasures and flee the city when the Ming Dynasty collapsed. You never know, you might find some hidden treasure down there!

[1] Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925): A Chinese revolutionary who played an instrumental role in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty, abolishing imperial rule and founding the People’s Republic of China.

[2] Feng Shui: This theory is based on the premise that the specific placement of certain places or objects will bring good luck.

[3] Jinshi: These were advanced scholars who passed the three-yearly court exam, the highest level of imperial examination.

[4] Zhuangyuan: These were the highest ranking of all the scholars, as they were the ones who ranked first nationwide in the three-yearly court exam, the highest level of imperial examination. In the space of just 4 years, Guilin produced two zhuangyuan, which was considered nothing short of a miracle.



The name Nanning (南宁) literally means “Peace in the South” as historically the imperial government used Nanning as a stronghold to aid the integration of the south of China with the north. Nowadays, although the city has undoubtedly grown into a burgeoning metropolis, the lush tropical greenery that has earned Nanning the title of “Green City” still gives this urban city an air of tranquillity. Nanning is the capital city of Guangxi and is, unsurprisingly, also its largest city. It boasts a population of over 6.5 million people and is home to communities of 35 different ethnic minorities, including Zhuang, Yao, Hui, Miao, Dong, and Man people, to name but a few. Nanning is a melting pot of various cultures and this is reflected in its customs, cuisine, and linguistic diversity.

Due to its close proximity to neighbouring Guangdong province, where Cantonese culture prevails over Han Chinese culture, many of the older people in Nanning will speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin Chinese. However, thanks to the diligent efforts of the Chinese government, many of the younger people in Nanning now speak a dialect of Mandarin Chinese. Since Nanning has a significant contingency of Zhuang people, many local people will also speak the Zhuang language and you’ll even find that many of the road signs have been transliterated into both Cantonese and the Zhuang language. The city’s proximity to the Vietnam border and to Hong Kong and Macau means its culture has also been heavily influenced by these three neighbours. This makes Nanning one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse cities in China.

nanning02With over 3,500 different species of tropical plant thriving in the city, Nanning is also famed for its biodiversity. The city flower is the vibrant Chinese hibiscus and the city tree is the almond tree, both of which are prevalent throughout the city. The verdant greenery is so prolific throughout Nanning that, from certain angles, it looks as though the city has been overgrown with vegetation. This natural beauty has given way to a number of local attractions, including the historic People’s Park, magnificent Qingxiu Mountain in the south of the city, tranquil South Lake, and Guangxi Medicinal Herb Botanical Garden. The Detian Waterfall that rests on the border between Vietnam and China is particularly spectacular and can be easily reached from Nanning.

Nanning’s significance to the history of South China and its diverse ethnic minority population can be studied at the local Guangxi Museum. This museum boasts an eclectic variety of exhibits, including a hall dedicated to ancient bronze drums found in Guangxi, an exhibition detailing the history and culture of the resident ethnic minorities, and an open-air stage where ethnic groups perform and replicas of different ethnic dwellings are on display. A stop to this museum will enrich any trip with a wealth of interesting facts, stories and legends about both the Han Chinese and the ethnic minorities of China.

Since Nanning has become one of the foremost cities in China to study Mandarin Chinese, it has adapted to the sensitivities and palates of its many foreign visitors. You can now find many Western-style restaurants, cafés, bars, and clubs littered throughout the city. This is surprisingly unusual for a southern Chinese city, even one as large as Nanning. The nightlife in the city is especially vibrant and, when the lights switch on at dusk, the cityscape looks irresistibly dazzling. There is a wide variety of hotels and hostels that cater to all different types of visitor, from those who simply want a bed to those who desire a luxurious, 5-star palace. If you want to truly experience urban life in Guangxi, Nanning is the best place to be!

The Li River

The Li River, also known as Lijiang, is probably the most famous scenic spot in all of Guangxi. It is so prominent that a tableau of the Li River is featured on the Chinese 20 Yuan note. The river is surrounded by Karst Mountains, which boast such unusual shapes and verdant greenery that they have an almost mythical appearance. The Li River has become one of Guangxi’s most popular tourist attractions and a number of different river cruises are now available, allowing visitors to experience the majesty of the Karst Mountains first-hand.

Many of these cruises focus on the stretch of river between the city of Guilin and Yangshuo County Town, which is about 83 kilometres (52 miles) long. They usually start at Zhujiang Wharf, which is about 40 minutes’ drive from Guilin, and can take upwards of 4 to 5 hours to reach Yangshuo. The scenery between Guilin and Yangshuo is truly stunning and many of the scenic spots, such as Elephant Trunk Hill, have been given special names based on their appearance or on legends that relate to them. If you take a tour on one of the many luxury cruise ships leaving from Zhujiang Wharf, your guide will undoubtedly treat you to a few of the delightful fairy tales and myths behind some of these scenic spots.

Li river rmbAs you travel along the Li River, you’ll notice wild and domestic water buffalo grazing on the riverbanks or swimming in the river, farmers with their conical hats working on the rice paddies, and a unique type of fisherman found only in Guangxi. These ingenious fishermen use cormorants to fish for them, which they train from birth. These large, black waterfowl dive into the rushing water, swimming underneath the surface and snapping up fish. They then return to the boat, where the fisherman pulls the fish out of their gullets. The fisherman will have tied a fine thread around the cormorant’s throat, which is what stops it from swallowing the fish. Once the fishing is complete, the fisherman will release the tie on the cormorant’s throat and reward it with a few small fish. Normally one fisherman will be accompanied by two cormorants and will traverse the river using a slim, bamboo raft. Unfortunately this type of fishing is a dying art and is now primarily used to attract tourism rather than as an effective means of fishing.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to take such a long cruise, you can always head straight to Yangshuo and take one of the simple bamboo raft cruises up a small portion of the Li River. This usually only takes a couple of hours at most and still provides many wonderful views of the Karst Mountains and popular scenic spots along the river.

Enjoy the beautiful Li River on our travel: Explore the culture of Ethnic minorities in Southeast Guizhou

Huangluo Red Yao Village

Huangluo Red Yao Village is part of the Longji Rice Terraces Scenic Area but amazingly this is not its focal attraction. Huangluo is located just 1 kilometre south of Ping’an village and over 87 kilometres (54 miles) from Guilin city. It is famous throughout China not for its magnificent rice terraces, but for its locals. Huangluo is home to the Red Yao people, a branch of the Yao ethnic minority that are so-called for the vibrant red jackets and shirts that the women wear on festival occasions. The village itself is relatively ordinary, with a population of just over 400 people living in 60 households throughout the village. However, what makes this village so extraordinary is a strange habit kept up by the local Yao women, which has earned Huangluo the title of “World’s First Long Hair Village”.

The village holds the Guinness World Record for the largest group of people with the longest hair. Over 60 girls in the village have silken black hair over one metre in length, and a handful of them have hair over 2 metres long. Their hair is not only incredibly long, it is in exceedingly good condition and this is all thanks to a beauty regime that the Yao women have practised for years. Normally they will wash their hair in the river every day but every third or fourth day they will wash their hair using a special “shampoo”. This “shampoo” is made by first fermenting water that has been used to wash rice. This water is fermented for at least a week until it starts to smell a little sour. The rice water is then boiled and pomelo skins are added to the mixture. Finally, the residue left over from crushing tea plant seeds into tea oil is added and the “shampoo” is complete. The women first run the shampoo through their hair, and then comb it whilst rinsing the shampoo out with fresh local spring water.

The Yao women grow their hair like this because they believe that long hair symbolises longevity so the longer your hair is, the longer your life is likely to be. Yao women only cut their hair once in their lifetime and this is when they turn eighteen years old. The cutting of the hair is a rite of passage, implying that the girl is now an adult and ready for marriage. The cut hair will be kept and styled into an ornamental headpiece, which is then reincorporated back into the woman’s hair when she is married. The Yao women are in fact characterised by this hairstyle, which consists of three bunches of hair. The first bunch of hair is her natural hair, the second is the hair from her first haircut, and the third is made from strands of hair that fall out during combing and are kept over time. All of this hair will be held in place using just a single comb.

The hair of a Yao woman is also a useful indication of her social status. If a woman’s hair is covered, this is an indication that she is unmarried. Traditionally, no man was allowed to see a woman’s hair until her wedding day, when her groom would be treated to an unveiling of her beautiful hair for the first time. If any man saw her hair before her wedding day, regardless of whether they were a villager or an outsider, they would have to stay with her parents for three years as if they were their son-in-law. If the woman’s hair is simply wrapped around her head, this indicates that she is married but as yet has no children. Finally, a small bun at the front of the head indicates that the woman is married with children.

Once you’re in Huangluo, you can enjoy performances of the women showing off their long, luxurious hair. These performances also incorporate singing and dancing, a favourite pastime of the Yao people. They sing sweet folk songs about the mountains, the terraces, the history of the Yao people, and many other themes close to their heart. The Yao people are incredibly friendly and hospitable, so don’t be too surprised if a local invites you into their home for a drink or simply to admire their rustic way of life. Unfortunately Huangluo is one of the few villages in the area that has been heavily developed for tourism, thanks to the unique appearance of the Red Yao women, so it can be quite crowded. If you want to get a taste of Yao culture without having to endure the crowds, we recommend visiting the villages of Dazhai and Tiantou in the Jinkeng Terraced Fields Area.

There are currently no official hotels or hostels in Huangluo. If you want to stay in the area overnight, we recommend staying at one of the hotels in Ping’an or Dazhai and traveling from there to Huangluo. To get to Huangluo, you first need to take an express bus from Guilin to Longsheng County Town or Heping Town, which takes about 2 hours. From Longsheng or Heping, you can take another bus that goes directly to Huangluo and takes just over an hour. Alternatively, you can take the bus from Longsheng to Ping’an and then hike from Ping’an to Huangluo, which only takes about 15 minutes.

Guangxi Local Snacks

Since Guangxi is in the south of China, many of its local snacks contain rice. However, the locals of Guangxi have become rather innovative with their rice and have managed to adapt it into a variety of forms, all of which are delicious and incredibly filling. These snacks are so popular that they are found throughout China but are particularly prolific in Guangxi, where local recipes have been honed to perfection. Most of these “snacks” are actually large enough to constitute a whole meal, but we’re sure even a large helping of these tasty treats won’t be enough once you’ve tried them!

Guilin Rice Noodles (桂林米粉)

Guilin Rice Noodles

Guilin rice noodles are considered one of the Four Treasures of Guilin and this is mainly because, in spite of being a snack, they somehow pack in more flavour than a festival banquet! Recipes for Guilin noodles have been refined over thousands of years and the history of this dish dates all the way back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.). According to legend, during his reign, Qin Shi Huang sent some of his soldiers down south to help integrate the southern provinces. In the north, these soldiers were used to their staple diet of noodles and found the rice-based meals of southern China unpalatable. In order to combat this problem, the Army General found a way of powdering the rice down into flour, which he then used to make noodles. These rice noodles became so popular with the locals that, long after the army left, they continued to be a staple dish in southern China.

These thick rice noodles come in two varieties: round-shaped and flat-shaped. They are usually served with a sumptuous broth, which is the key ingredient of Guilin noodles. The broth is boiled for several hours and contains a multitude of ingredients, such as dried tangerine peel, cinnamon, and ginger, but there is currently no exact recipe for Guilin noodles. Vendors will each have their own, unique recipes for the broth, some of which contain upwards of 20 ingredients, and they guard these recipes fiercely. Thus far, no vendor has disclosed its recipe to the public so, if you want to try this tantalising dish, you must go to the source! The noodles are typically sprinkled with shreds of tender beef, pork or horse meat and served with a range of garnishes, including pickled white radish, pickled green beans, crushed chillies, garlic, chopped spring onion, coriander, soy sauce and many more.

Changfen (肠粉)


Although changfen is a Cantonese-style dish, it is a popular snack in Nanning and variations on the traditional recipe abound in the city. The history of the dish stretches back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) and, with its mouth-watering sauciness, it’s easy to see why it has remained popular for so long. In English, it is sometimes referred to as steamed vermicelli roll or rice noodle roll. The first step is to get a well-balanced mixture of rice flour, glutinous rice flour and water, and spread the mixture thinly onto a steel tray. This mixture must be exact because otherwise the “skin” of the changfen will be too chewy, too gummy or too thick. The mixture is then steamed until it forms the “skin”. This skin is thinner than the skin used to make dumplings and it has more elasticity.

The skin is then covered in a variety of fillings, including tender minced beef, pork and chopped green onions, and dried or fresh shrimp, which are further steamed until cooked through. The cooked filling is rolled up into the skin to form a cylinder. The perfect changfen should be a little transparent, so you can just see the filling inside the roll. A liberal helping of sweet, aromatic soy sauce is poured over the changfen and it is served, sometimes with a splash of plain or flavoured oil to add a touch of excitement. The skin of the changfen will generally taste the same but the filling and sauce will differ widely between vendors. Changfen are characterised by their juicy, moist flavour, which is both salty and a little sweet.

Zongzi (粽子)


This traditional snack is popular throughout China but is prolific in Guangxi and other regions of South China. The making of zongzi is usually a family activity and methods for making them will be passed down through generations. Although zongzi are available year-round, they are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. This festival takes place in honour of the poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River. Zongzi are designed to resemble the rice packets that were thrown into the river to distract the fish and deter them from eating his body. Tragic though it may seem, during festival time the Chinese people eat zongzi to commemorate this noble man’s sacrifice.

In English, zongzi are sometimes referred to as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings, but this doesn’t accurately convey what they actually are. Zongzi are made using glutinous rice, which is first lightly cooked by stir-frying it or soaking it in water for an extended period of time. The glutinous rice is then carefully wrapped in bamboo leaves, although some variations include using lotus, maize, or banana leaves to give the rice a slightly different flavour.

Along with the rice, a variety of fillings can be added to make the zongzi savoury or sweet. In southern China, savoury fillings such as salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms are popular. However, it is not uncommon to come across sweet zongzi, which include ingredients such as sweet red bean paste or sweet taro paste. Peanuts are usually added to both savoury and sweet zongzi. The filled leaves are carefully wrapped into a tetrahedral or conical shape and tied using twine or strips of leaf. The zongzi are then steamed or boiled for anywhere between twenty minutes to several hours, depending on how well-cooked the rice was before it went into the zongzi. Once cooked thoroughly, the zongzi are removed and left to cool. They disseminate an inviting aroma and serve as the perfect comfort food year-round.


Taste some authentic Guangxi Local Snacks on our travel: Explore the culture of Ethnic minorities in Southeast Guizhou