May 19, 2020
Whenever you inform a Chinese person that you’re planning on living, teaching, or studying in Guilin, they will almost always respond with the same line: “桂林山水甲天下！” Best translated as “Guilin’s mountains and water are the best under heaven,” Guilin has long been a fabled destination in Chinese history.
Guilin is best known for its natural scenery, which includes otherworldly, tree-covered mountains carved of limestone, long networks of clear rivers, and the timelessness of the rural Chinese countryside. Though photo opportunities abound here, there are plenty of other reasons that Guilin is a unique destination for learning Chinese language and culture.
1. The Guilinese are some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet
Whether it’s a result of picturesque natural surroundings, a pleasant pace of life, or simply a cultural nuance, Guilin’s people are friendly and eager to offer you a helping hand. For most Guilinese, interacting with foreigners is still a novelty. As a result, you’ll quickly find that locals are quite eager about the prospect of carrying conversation with you. Whether you’re lost and in need of directions, would like to inquire about the best dish on a restaurant menu, or are simply looking to make a new friend, it’s tough to find a more welcoming place than Guilin.
2. Guilin is big, but not too big
From an educational perspective, basing your Mandarin studies in a huge Chinese city like Beijing or Shanghai does not necessarily offer the best learning experience. Not only is it often that students may feel marginally overwhelmed in such a hectic environment, but it’s easy to miss out on much of what China has to offer there.
Guilin is a mid-sized Chinese city, called home by about 700,000 residents, and offers the full range of modern amenities. Despite its size, however, the countryside is only a fifteen-minute bicycle ride away from CLI’s university affiliate, Guangxi Normal University. Guilin is easily enjoyed by the most cautious and adventurous students alike, making it the perfect fit for hosting those seeking to learn Chinese language and culture.
3. Guilin remains free of heavy industrialization
There are few cities in China that can boast healthy, breathable air. While not all cities are polluted all the time, most experience bouts of haze and smog every now and then. Guilin, on the other hand, is not home to any heavy industrialization, so pollution here is minimal.
The city’s main industry is tourism, and as such, the government has sought to preserve the natural beauty that attracts visitors year-round. Furthermore, because Guilin has sought to develop tourism as its main source of revenue, all of its streets are tree-lined, the downtown area is beautifully lit, and the cleanliness of public space is carefully maintained. All in all, environmental friendliness makes Guilin one of China’s most pleasant places to live, teach, or study.
4. Guilin is a living symbol of China’s newfound economic growth
Many of Guilin’s residents are the first members of their families to earn their livelihoods beyond the farm, and many Chinese students enrolled at GXNU will be the first to earn a university degree. As a symbol of China’s increasing wealth, Guilin offers eyewitness testimony to the economic strides that China has taken since undertaking reforms.
Guilin is a city on the move; watching it transform and improve is apparent even to the naked eye, and any local will be glad to recant for you the great changes that have taken place within Guilin over the past few decades.
5. Guilin is home to several Chinese ethnic minorities
Guangxi province is actually an autonomous region, officially named Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (广西壮族自治区). While the Zhuang (壮族) are the largest minority in the province, making up 32 percent of the entire region’s population, Guangxi is inhabited by other Chinese minorities as well.
The largest and most significant of them include the Yao (瑶族), Miao (苗族), and Dong (侗族) peoples, and the traditional ways of life of all of these ethnic groups can be found within short bus rides from Guilin. For the purpose of learning about Chinese culture, Guilin delivers one of the most diverse experiences offered on the Chinese mainland.