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    2009-01-04 09:34:02     CRIENGLISH.com

Guilin, a major tourist destination in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is famous for its remarkable natural beauty. The landscape has been frequently depicted in Chinese paintings, making the picturesque land world-famous. An old saying in China says "No landscape on earth parallels that of Guilin in beauty". In today's "On the Road", let's follow Ning Yan and step into the Chinese painting.

We start our trip at Reed Flute Cave, dubbed "the art palace of nature". It takes its name from the green reeds growing outside from which flutes are made.

Located in the north-western part of the city, the cave covers about 500 square meters. Our guide Wang Li says the spectacular scenes are overwhelming.

Right before we go into the cave, a man plays a folk song as a display of local hospitality towards guests.

Walking through a zigzag of stalactites and stalagmites in dazzling colours, our eyes are caught by their strange shapes. Some look like frogs and some lions. All are illuminated by coloured lights, making the cave a fairyland.

Wang Li shows us around. She points towards the stalactites and stalagmites with her flashlight, explaining what images they could be compared to.

"People say this one is like a snowman, as you can see the heads, eyes, nose and mouth. Here is his body. But some say this one is like a happy Buddha, a laughing one. Behind here we can see on the right hand we can see here comes a pine tree, or a Christmas tree. The tree leaves you can see hanging snow. In children's eyes, they say this looks like an ice-cream, very big, and it's melting."

The guide asks us to use our imagination.

"This one is like a long bean. Here is a Chinese cabbage. That is a cauliflower. And can you guess what is it, this one? Yeah, you're right. It's a peanut."

It is humid in the cave and water drips down the stones. Some boom like a drum while others ring like a piano.

The guide explains that the cave was formed by dripping water. The stalactites and stalagmites grow slowly and every 100 years a few more millimetres are added.

Our guide sends us her farewell wishes.

"I hope all the guests could have healthy lives. Maybe after 99 years, we come back here to check this part connects or not. It's a best wish hope you come back here to visit our cave."

Guilin is blessed with water. It is even dubbed "China's Venice".

We continue our trip in the evening by climbing on a boat in downtown Guilin's Zhiyintai Wharf for a cruise through the city's canals.

The "Two Rivers and Four Lakes" water system is a peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustling city.

The two rivers are the Lijiang River and Taohua River. Three of the four lakes are named after trees growing along their banks, the fourth after a nearby cave.

More than 1,000 years ago, a moat river system was formed in Guilin. River trips became very much the fashion in the Tang and Song dynasties, but eventually the river courses silted up and were separated.

At the turn of the century, the city government dredged the thousand-year-old waterway, making it a combination of natural landscape and ecological harmony.

We visited the Shanhu Lake, noted for its Twin Pagodas named after the sun and the moon.

The Sun and Moon Pagodas are illuminated in a gold and silver light, their reflections glistening in the lake. Nearing the Sun Tower we find several people sampling tea and four female musicians playing traditional Chinese songs.

The 9-story Sun Tower is 41 meters high and made of solid bronze. The 7-story Moon Tower is 35 meters high and made of wood and glazed tiles. Both are located in the middle of the lake. The Moon Pagoda can be reached by a bridge, but the Sun pagoda must be accessed by an underwater passage between the two pagodas.

Our boat then continues its path downtown to bustling Guilin. The Yang Bridge is the main road of the city and several cars weave their way along it. As our vessel slips beneath, it feels like a different world. Our guide says we'll see even more beautiful sights before the trip is over.

"From 1999 to 2002, the municipal government invited international bidding for the design of the bridges. Citizens in Guilin chose their favourite designs from around the world. The bridges are not only beautiful but also practical, connecting the two rivers and four lakes. "

She says there are 19 bridges altogether. Some of them are styled after famous bridges like China's Zhaozhou Bridge, the world's oldest stone arch bridge, and the Jade Belt Bridge in the Summer Palace in Beijing. International replicas include the Mathematical Bridge across the River Cam and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

There is a huge 900-year-old banyan tree in the northern part of the Rong Lake. Beside it is an ancient city gate called Gunan Men which was built in the Song Dynasty some 1,000 years ago.

We see a small boat docking near the bank. But when ours draws closer to it, I find it's made of white marble. The structure is in memory of Huang Tingjian, a famous calligrapher and painter in the Song Dynasty who once anchored his boat here.

Looking at the small islands by the lakeside, local residents can be seen escaping from the noisy bustle of the town. Some sit on chairs while others stroll around aimlessly.

As we sail into Gui Lake, a folk song hits my ears. According to the guide, many residents come here for entertainment when the weather permits.

We eventually arrive at Lijiang River and our destination, the Elephant Trunk Hill. As its name suggests, the shape of the hill looks just like an elephant drinking water from the river. With green trees covering the hill, its reflection is even more striking.



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