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Guangxi

Guangxi is located in the southern part of the country. It has an area of 240,100 square kilometers and is bordered by the provinces of Yunnan on the west, Guizhou on the north, Hunan on the northeast, and Guangdong on the southeast; the Gulf of Tonkin on the south; and Vietnam on the southwest. Guangxi is fruitful for travel resources and Guilin is one of the most celebrated scenic cities in China.

Guangxi's best known attraction is Guilin, perhaps the most eulogised of all Chinese sightseeing areas. While most travellers spend some time in the nearby town of Yangshuo, few make it to other parts of Guangxi. For the adventurous, there are minority regions in the northern areas bordering Guizhou, as well as less touristed karst rock formations like those in Guilin on the Zuo River, not far from Nanning.  

Guangxi also has a border crossing with Vietnam near the town of Pingxiang. Open to Chinese for years, this route has now been made much more accessible to western travelers.  

Guangxi first came under Chinese sovereignty when a Qin Dynasty army was sent southwards in 214 BC to conquer what is now Guangdong Province and eastern Guangxi; two earlier attempts by Emperor Qin Shi Huang had wrested little effective control from the Zhuang people. Like the rest of the southwest, the region had never been firmly under Chinese control - the eastern and southern parts of Guangxi were occupied by the Chinese, while a system of indirect rule through chieftains of the aboriginal Zhuang prevailed in the west.  

The situation was complicated in the northern regions by the Yao (Mien) and Miao (Hmong) tribespeople, who had been driven there from their homelands in Hunan and Jiangxi by the advance of the Han Chinese settlers. Unlike the Zhuang, who easily assimilated Chinese customs, the Yao and Miao remained in the hill regions, often cruelly oppressed by the Han. There was continuous conflict with the tribes, with uprisings in the 1830s and again during the Taiping Rebellion, which began in Guangxi.  

Today the Zhuang are China's largest minority, with well over 15 million people (according to a 1990 census) concentrated in Guangxi. Although they are virtually indistinguishable from the Han Chinese (the last outward vestige of their original identity being their linguistic links with the Thai people), in 1955 Guangxi Province was reconstituted as the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Besides the Zhuang, Miao and Yao minorities, Guangxi is home to smaller numbers of Dong, Maonan, Mulao, Jing (Vietnamese Gin) and Yi peoples. Until recently, more than 75% of Guangxi's population was non-Han.

China's first canal was built in Guangxi after the emperor gained a foothold in the Qin Dynasty, but the scattered Han had little ability to use it to much economic advantage and the province remained comparatively poor until the present century. The first attempts at modernising Guangxi were made during 1926-27 when the 'Guangxi Clique' (the main opposition to Chiang Kaishek within the Kuomintang) controlled much of Guangdong, Hunan, Guangxi and Hubei. After the outbreak of war with Japan, the province was the scene of major battles and substantial destruction.

Recommended Scenic Spots

Yangshuo in Guilin

Just 1 1/2 hours from Guilin by bus, Yangshuo has, along with Dali in Yunnan, become one of those legendary backpacker destinations that most travelers have heard about long before they even set foot in China. Set amid limestone pinnacles, it's a small town growing bigger on the back of its popularity. Although not as quaint as it once was, Yangshuo is still a great laidback base from which to explore other small villages in the nearby countryside.  

With its western-style cafes, Hollywood movies, Bob Marley tunes and banana pancakes, Yangshuo may not seem like the 'real China', but who cares? It's a great spot to relax, see the scenery and grab a good cup of coffee - the perfect antidote to weeks or months on the road. Don't make this your first or second stop coming from Hong Kong. Save it for after knocking around Guangzhou or Guangxi for a spell. You'll appreciate it much more.

And either way, for sheer scenic beauty, it's hard to top a leisurely bike ride around Yangshuo and its surrounding villages. A lot of people have even stayed overnight in the villages.

Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin

Guilin's most famous peak lies at the junction of the Li and Yang rivers. The rock hill with an arched hole (known as the water-moon arch) is named after its striking resemblance to an elephant sipping water.

On calm days, this giant elephant is reflected on the mirror-like surface of the river and in the evening, when viewed under a moonlit sky, the hill creates a lasting and magical impression.

A narrow winding path leads to the top of the hill and the Samantabhadra Tower. Built from solid brick and dating from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the tower's core is round like a bottle or the handle of a sword, so the tower is also referred to as the Precious Bottle Tower or the Sword Handle Tower.

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