Have you ever seen a Chinese painting? You know, one of those traditional works with bending trees, foggy skies, fierce mountain peaks, and pagodas in the distance?
This is almost exactly what a scene from the Li River looks like. It’s a majestic place that sometimes doesn’t seem real.
And, if you take a ride on this famous waterway, you may have trouble deciding whether to take pictures or just enjoy the view.
In fact, it’s one of the most iconic natural attractions in China. Plus, it’s certainly worth all of the hype. Interested in experiencing the Li River for yourself? Here’s everything you need to know.
Facts About The Li River
-Its distance is 83 kilometers.
-It flows from Guilin to Yangshuo.
-The upper region of the Li River is connected to Xiang River which eventually drains into China’s largest river, the Yangtze.
-The karst mountains around the river make it comparable to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
-One of the biggest attractions along the Li River is Seven-Star Park.
-Other top sites along the river include: Ox Gorge, Pagoda Hill, Duxu Ancient Town, and the Forest of Odd Shaped Peaks.
-The Li River scene is used as the photo on the 20 Yuan bank note.
-The Lingqu River Canal runs along the Li River. It was dug in 214 BC and is the World’s oldest canal that still exists.
-This river is the most written about waterway in China.
The History of The Li River
The history of the Li River starts with nature and what happened to the area over time. This destination is famous for its rock formations, slopes, ridges, and ravines. All of those features were formed by water erosion and weathering. Through these processes, these famous and beautiful formations began to take shape out of the biochemical sediments.
The river is part of the Guilin Scenic Zone, which has quite a long history. In fact, it was about eight thousand years ago that primitive communities were residing in this area. In 214 B.C. the Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, commissioned the Lingqu Canal to be built. This was during the Qin Dynasty.
The canal would link the Lijiang River to the Xiangjiang River to form Guilin Prefecture. During the Song Dynasty, the Li River became known for its beauty and started to become a cultural icon around China.
Since the river was such a prominent part of Guilin, a saying started to become popularized around the country: “Among all the mountains and waters, Guilin is the best.”
In 1982, the State Council deemed the Lijiang River Scenic Zone a place of scenic and historic importance.
The history of Guilin is important to note when it comes to the Li River. It was in 314 B.C. that Guilin was established along the river. It was during this time that the Qin Dynasty administration was set up in this area.
In 111 B.C., Emperor Wu established Shi An County which was the start of the city.
The city prospered during the Song and Tang dynasties, and canals were constructed in order to pass along food supplies. And, in 1981, Guilin became a protected historic and cultural area.
The Culture of The Li River
The Li River is surrounded by natural and traditional culture. From the rice paddies and the local villagers to the natural attractions, there is a lot to see. And if you really want to understand the culture, it’s best to visit the most popular Li River destinations. So, if you are visiting, make sure to:
-Take a bamboo raft ride: This is one of the best, and most popular ways to see the river. Visitors can book a personal bamboo raft and get taken down the river. Most tours will stop off on the banks of the river for a traditional lunch. The boat ride is slow enough so that you can take plenty of pictures and enjoy the scene.
-See The Landscape From the 20 Yuan Note: If you take a bamboo raft ride, your guide will probably let you know when the landscape can be seen. Most visitors will get out of the boat and take a picture in front of it (usually holding up a 20 Yuan note for good measure.)
-Reed Flute Cave: This is one of the most famous caves to visit along the Li River. It has plenty of stalagmites and stalactites that all have their own stories and interpretations. The best part is that the inside of the cave is lit up in Technicolor.
-Elephant Trunk Hill: This is another famous attraction along the river. It’s a karst mountain that is shaped like an elephant trunk going into the water. It won’t take long to visit but is popular with tourists.
-Lingqu Canal: This is the oldest existing canal in the world. Visitors will get to see a whole lot of history by visiting this part of the Li River.
-Seven Star Park: This is the largest park in Guilin. It can be found on the east bank of the Li River and is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. It gets its name from the seven peaks that can be seen here.
-Go Hiking Along The Li River: Active travelers love to take this iconic hike along the river. You’ll have plenty of beautiful scenery to look at. Plus, you’ll get a perspective that not many tourists get to see.
Tips For Visiting The Li River
-Book a hotel in Guilin if you want central access to the river and all of its attractions.
-The best time to visit is from April through October.
-Visiting from late March through late April will yield a foggy, more poetic scene.
-Visit the Li River from September through October if you want sunny, clear weather.
-Avoid visiting between October 1-7. This is a Chinese holiday period.