Cruise on the Li River, China’s Artistic Masterpiece

Fishing on the river. Photo by Harvey Thomlinson
Fishing on the river. Photo from “Guilin: China’s Masterpiece”


Xingping was one of several ancient river towns that we passed during our cruise, including Daxu and Fuli. The Guilin area’s position as an historic highway between China’s central plains and the south has left a tangible legacy.

The next day we returned to explore Xingping on foot and found a cluster of historic buildings in the town center, including Wushu Temple, which dates back 1800 years and is now a local history museum. Just round the corner, we stumbled upon another charming temple of Qing dynasty (1644-1911) vintage, devoted to Guan Yu, the God of War. Xingping’s centerpiece though was the broad waterfront with its beautiful views of the Li and Yi rivers


Our boat finally came to a rest at the idyllic and laid-back county town Yangshuo, where we alighted at the wharf to run a course of bee keepers touting local honey. Our river journey had ended far too quickly. Perhaps a better choice if you have the time would be to hike a stretch of the river, soaking up the immensity of the landscape and the charm of the villages and rural scenes.

The banks of the Li River. Photo by Harvey Thomlinson
The banks of the Li River. Photo from “Guilin: China’s Masterpiece”

If You Go

How to Reach Guilin

Guilin in southern China is served by Guilin International Airport and the city can also be conveniently reached by high-speed rail from either Shenzhen (next to Hong Kong) or Guangzhou. The journey takes 3.5 hours.

Li River Cruises

Boats with English speaking guides embark daily at 10 am from Zhujiang Pier, a 40-minute drive from downtown Guilin. Tickets can be scored at Guilin travel agents and hotels for RMB420, including a free shuttle bus to the pier, which picks up from various places around town. Alternatively make your way to the pier by taxi for about RMB100 and buy tickets.

Where to Stay in Yangshuo

Giggling Tree
Aishanmen Village, Yangshuo County

Outstanding rustic hotel outside Yangshuo near some of the best Yulong River cycling routes. The Dutch owners have lovingly created characterful guest rooms inside converted county houses. Al fresco dining in the courtyard is another draw and the hotel also offers good tourist maps and bike hire.

Where to Eat in Yangshuo

Cloud 9
1 Chengzhong Rd, West Street, Yangshuo County.

Classy Sichuanese joint in the middle of the traveler action on West Street which serves up a good spread from all over China. The Li River Poached Fish is fresh, and the Taro and Pork Stew also comes recommended. Menu options for the adventurous include Dog Hotpot and Bamboo Rat.

Author Bio: Harvey is a Hong Kong-based writer and publisher of Meet China guides. “Must-read guides for history and travel buffs.” Time Out. Harvey has translated Chinese novelists like Murong  Xuecun while his own innovative fiction has appeared in journals like Experimental Writing and Tears on the Fence. Guilin: China’s Masterpiece is a comprehensive Guilin and Yangshuo guidebook, with in-depth introductions to scenery, history, local ethnic minorities, and hiking, biking and climbing routes, available now on Amazon and Kindle.