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Guilin History

Guilin is a beautiful natural scenery city that has an astonishing karst landscape, so people always say that the scene in Guilin is the best in the world. In fact, with the exception of its scenery, Guilin City also boasts a long history that can be traced back for 10,000 years.

190,000,000 years ago, the area around present-day Guilin was water, part of an ancient sea. Due to the movement of the Earth's crust, the sea floor eventually rose and became dry land.

There are some remains of the Primitive Society, such as Zengpiyan Cave. These relics prove that the prehistoric inhabitants engaged in fishing, hunting and food collecting, as natural resources were abundant at that time. And all these emerge the living scene of the Matriarchal Clan Society in Guilin 10,000 years ago. You can appreciate these relics in the Giulin Zengpiyan Site Museum.

In the Period of Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties (2146 BC-771 BC), Guilin belonged to Yue State.

In the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period (770 BC-221 BC), Guilin belonged to Chu State.

After the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-207 BC) united China, he set up the Guilin Shire in this region in 214 BC – this is the first time appears the name of Guilin. At the same time, due to the digging of the Lingqu Canal, Guilin became one of the gateways between the Central Plains and the Lingnan Region (current Guangdong, Guangxi and part Hunan, Jiangxi). From then on, Guilin has become an important historical cultural city.

The Lingqu Canal was considered one of China's three engineering marvels beside the Great Wall and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System. It extends for 66 kilometers in Xing'an County to link up the Yangtze and Pearl River Systems. The architect who designed the canal was Shi Lu. What’s more, it has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tentative List.

In 111 BC, during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Shi'an County was established in this region, which could be regarded as the beginning of the city.

Later, in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), the Shi'an County was founded in Guilin. From then on, Shi'an State (Guilin) was considered to be an important strategic spot for many ambitious schemers.

During the tumultuous Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), Shi'an was governed by the Shu State and the Wu State successively. Of course, Shi'an was developed to be a political center gradually.

In the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), the city was renamed Guizhou.

It wasn't until the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that Guilin took on any real importance as a centre of government. In 621, the Grand General Li Jing started to construct the city walls and great halls in this region. Fortunately, we can also appreciate the Ancient South Gate (it is a remnant of the old city walls) lies on the north bank of the Banyan Lake which has endured for centuries. In front of the gate is a 1,000-year-old Banyan tree with flourishing leaves.

During the golden years (between the 7th-8th centuries), China's economy and national power reached a new high, which led to unprecedented prosperity in the friendly relations and cultural exchanges. Jian Zhen was a Chinese monk who made the most significant contributions in the history of Sino-Japanese cultural exchanges. He ever passed Guilin and had been stayed in here one year. During this period, he propagated Buddhism in many famous temples, such as Kaiyuan Temple, Qixia Temple, Jianshan Temple. Fortunately, all these temples present in front of our eyes, but repaired many times successively.

In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Guilin was the capital of Guangnan xilu which administrated today's Guangxi and Hainan Provinces. So this dynasty has left many ancient rock inscriptions and carved steles. There goes the saying, "China's Han and Tang Dynasties steles are best found in Shandong and Xi'an provinces, while Guilin is the best place to view steles from the Song Dynasty." Now we can appreciate these steles at the Museum of Guihai Stele Forest.

The museum itself hosts over 210 cliff-carving steles inside dated from the Tang Dynasty to the Minguo Dynasty. Most of these carving works were Song Dynasty which has been of great importance in Chinese calligraphy culture. Moreover, it collects and shows many excellent hand-made rubbings, scattered ancient steles, aged stone carvings and memorial archways of the successive dynasties. All these fully show us the long history of the Guilin stele culture and the refined Chinese art. Some famous steles are the rare treasures left by Chinese ancient celebrities. Studying them in depth will open an encyclopedia of the ancient Guilin city on the rocks.

Other historical relics from Song Dynasty are the Flower Bridge which always lies in Seven Star Park and Ancient Wall.

Early in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a nephew of the Emperor was sent to administer Guilin. He took the title “Prince of Jingjiang” At the same time, he built his Jingjiang Palace at the foot of Solitary Beauty Peak. It has history of 630 years, early than the Imperial Palace in Beijing. During the 257 years from building of the palace to the end of Ming Dynasty, 14 kings from 12 generations lived here. Now it is still in good condition and is rated as the best-preserved example of a vassal state mansion from the Ming Dynasty in all of China.

Later, 11 princes of the Jingjiang family were buried at the Mausoleum of Prince Jingjiang which situated at the base of Yao Mountain. Jiangjiang King Tombs Complex covers more than 100 square kilometers. There are 11 tombs for Kings and over 300 tombs for generals, lieutenants, imperial clan, imperial kinsmen, and vassal's relatives. The well-preserved tombs have become important relics of culture and history in Guilin.

In the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, Guilin became the capital of Guangxi that the economics and politics were unshaken. And more and more people moved into Guilin started to set up their homes by the Li River. Now, you can see many time-honored towns with well preserved traditional Chinese architecture and shiny stone or cobbled streets. All these ancient towns have a history over 1000 years. They are Daxu Ancient Town (大圩古镇), Xingping Fishing Village (兴坪渔村), Jiangtouzhou Village (江头洲村), Ditang Village (迪塘村), Shuiyuantou Village (水源头村), Daxu Bear Village (大圩熊村), Yueling Village (月岭古村), Rongjing Ancient Town (榕津古镇), Yongningzhou Ancient City (永宁州古城), Yangshuo Liugong Village (阳朔留公村), Yangshuo Stone City (阳朔石头城), Yangshuo Longtan Village (阳朔龙潭村), Yangshuo Fuli Ancient Town (阳朔福利古镇), Yangshuo Jiuxian Village (阳朔旧县村), Changgangling Village (长岗岭村), Yangshuo Langzi Village (阳朔朗梓村), etc.

Most of which keep their original style and features of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These wooden architectures are quite unique and elegant: brick walls preventing rain infiltration, black tiles recording the history of the village, ornamented beams reflecting the profound local culture and ornamental engraving-decorated gates standing for the particular flavor of the architectures. After hundreds of years' rain and wind, these buildings remain what they were. Actually, they still dominate the village and are homes of the locals.

History has left to this place innumerous sites and relics, as if it favored this part more than others. Many valuable and rare historical relics are well preserved here, such as ancient coins, inscription forest, ancient instruments, longevity beds and so on. Relics here contribute greatly to explore the culture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

In 1931, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria broke out.

In 1937, the War of Resistance Against Japan (the Second Sino-Japanese War between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China) all broke out.

In 1941, the Pacific War broke out with the invasion of British Malaya and the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Government declared the war against Japan.

In 1941, The American Volunteer Group (AVG), nicknamed the Flying Tigers by Chinese for their courage, was formed under the leadership of US General Claire Lee Chennault to help China drive out invading Japanese troops. Based on the airfields in Liuzhou, Hengyang and Guilin (formerly known as Kwelin), the Flying Tigers had the task of making sure the security in south of China, as well as fighting against Japanese transportation army in the sea.

During this period, the Yangtang Airfield of Guilin played a very important role in the Sino-US cooperation to fight against Japanese imperialism. Several fighter planes were sent to here. They greatly contributed to fight against Japanese Army. The Yangtang Airfield was ever expanded to include a P-38 Recon Sqd., complete facilities for repair & maintenance of all types of aircraft and able to handle the B-24's on its l.25-mile runway. A hospital-dispensary was built, rail-lines built & maintained by the US from Guilin to both Yangtang and the fighter airstrip Ertang – just E. over the “Dragons Teeth” peaks – In total the base had 550-buildings; caves used for food-preparation storage and as air-raid shelters during Japanese bomber visitations. Fortunately, you can also see a scene which lay basically unchanged since the days of World War Two. You can stand on the same rock that General Chennault stood on to watch his Flying Tigers engage the Japanese in aerial combat. This rock is Located in front of General Chennault's operations and command cave which is situated on a hillside just above Yangtang Old Airfield. If you have seen the archival footage of the Flying Tigers you have seen the scene we were looking at (pictured above). And General Chennault's operations and command cave still preserved.

In recent years, the former members of Flying Tigers have returned to this site for seven times since 2004. They came back here for recalling the past days in the war. They even had a plan to invest to build a Flying Tigers Park by fund. In 2007, the government set a monument in the airport site. It is the witness that Chinese and United States got together to fight against Japanese imperialism. In the war, there were more than 1,000 American Young soldiers lost their lives. They made great contributions for the victory of the war for anti-fascist. The Flying Tiger Historical park will be a place where our two great nations and people can come together to remember and honor the past while working for a bright and peaceful future.

In 1945, Japan declared surrender by many years’ effort with Allied Forces’ help.

Until 1949, Guilin declared liberation after going through many years’ War of Liberation (the Chinese Civil War).

In 1973, the former US President Bill Richard Nixon visited Guilin, he said, "I have visited more than 80 countries and over a hundred cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin, Guilin is really a bright pearl in China."

In 1979, the former Secretary of State of America Herry Kissinger visited Guilin, he said, "In the past, I always thought that Chinese landscape paintings are the ideals of romanticism of the painters, after viewing the Guilin's landscapes, I hanve known that they are the portraits of the realism."

In 1996, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett visited Guilin.

In October 1996, two Chinese farmers discovered a crash site of one of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) aircrafts (nickname the Flying Tigers) on the Mao'er Mountain in Xing'an Country. In November 1996, People's Republic of China President Jiang Zemin turned over photographs of the dog tags, as well as a videotape of the crash site. The names on the military dog tags included: Buckley, Kelley, Netherwood, Tomenendale and Ward. Later, a team from the US Army CILHI (Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii) launched a search that began in January 1997 and included three visits over three years, due to the difficult location of the wreck site, recovering personal effects / material evidence: Dog tags, four engines, six machine guns, bullets, eight pistols, five coins, pocket watch, and a flashlight according to a CILHI report. The team also documented aircraft wreckage bearing the stenciled numbers "40783", the serial number that identified the aircraft of Pierpont and crew. A memorial plaque was placed at the crash site and some of the personal effects / material evidence were exhibited at the museum of Xing'an.

In 1998, the former US President Bill Clinton visited Guilin. At first, he spoke to a meeting about environmental protection at the foot of Camel Hill in Seven Star Park. Then, he and his family were to embark on an excursion on the Li River. When the boat stopped at the Xingping Fishing Village, he went ashore for a visit. After this tour, he said happily, "I heard of the name of Lijiang River long ago. Today I visit Lijiang River. It is more vivid and genuine than what I thought before. Nowhere is like Guilin. It makes me think of the traditional Chinese paintings."

The missionaries were gone, along with the other refugees of war. Today, Guilin is a neatly laid-out city, with two and three story stucco buildings in place of the huts that formerly lined the river banks. Every autumn, the air is redolent with the fragrance of white, yellow and golden cassia blossoms.