Discovering China: Yangshou - Caves, Cormorants, and Snails - Eva Varga

October 24, 20131

discovering china

Nihao!  I’m delighted you are joining me for the seventh of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Yangshou – where you will discover caves, cormorants, and snails. Of all the cities we had the chance to see during our three-week family holiday in China, Yangshou remains the most special to me. The scenery was stunning.  The people were so welcoming.  It reminded me a little of my beloved Oregon.

yangshouIn Chinese paintings there are scenes of fantastically shaped misty mountains – these aren’t merely in the eye of the artist – you can see this landscape around Guilin. The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is famous for its scenery dominated by the karst peaks that create some of the most famous landscape images of China. You’ve likely even seen them featured prominently in an episode of Star Wars.


What you don’t see in those photos are the hundreds of caves that go right along with the landscape (where there’s a limestone mountain, there is a cave). The area around Yangshuo – where we stayed – has many caves for spelunking, some you wander through, some in which you can even enjoy a mud bath.

We had to make changes to our original itinerary and we didn’t have as much time here as we’d hoped. For this reason, we sadly didn’t make it to these caves.  Even so, we had a wonderful time and Yangshou remains one of our highlights.  With the help of our hotel, a driver met us at the airport in Guilin and escorted us to our resort in Yangshou. We arrived just in time for lunch – a local favorite of braised beer fish – and thereafter enjoyed a delightful motor boat cruise on the Li River.

Li River

The motor boat was loud and in the humidity, it was not the most comfortable ride (our driver went up river very slowly – I think every other boat must have passed us).   After about 45 minutes, he stopped at a small island where he directed us off the boat and we were immediately encouraged by the vendors to sample their offerings as well as have our photo taken with the captive cormorants.  This made me uncomfortable but I obliged.

After our river cruise, we visited Xingping, an ancient village in existence for over 1500 years. In the village, we could see stone streets and crumbly brick buildings with tiled roofs, surrounded by the mountains.   We then returned to the Yangshou Mountain Resort where we were staying to change and go down to dinner. Can you believe we ordered burgers?  The freshly in  house-baked buns and local vegetables (particularly the tomatoes) made it one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten.


Later that evening, we went into town again for the cormorant fishing show. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan and China since about 960 AD. The types of cormorants used differ based on the location; Chinese fishermen often employ Great Cormorants (P. carbo).

To control the birds, the fishermen tie a snare near the base of the bird’s throat. This prevents the birds from swallowing larger fish, which are held in their throat, but the birds can swallow smaller fish – we observed this on a few occasions.  When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.

yangshou cormorant fishingThe following day, we stayed close to the resort as we were to depart in the early afternoon for the train station.  We enjoyed a lazy float on inner tubes reminiscent of my childhood on the Yulong River amid a beautiful backdrop of karst mountains.  We played a little Pīngpāng qiú (乒乓球) – a sport in which China dominates.  We slowly, reluctantly packed our things.

While in Yangshou, travelers can also enjoy a relaxing ride on a bamboo raft on the river. The skillful crewman uses a long pole to navigate the raft.  As our time in Yangshou was limited, we didn’t have the chance to take a bamboo raft down this section of the river – but we did enjoy watching others.


The kids would have liked to captain their own raft but had to console themselves with the one that was anchored near the resort.  Here they found numerous snails who they quickly befriended. We’d watched the movie Turbo just prior to departing for China, so they both had a fond affection for snails.  You can read more about our impromptu snail study in my earlier post, Nature Study in China: Phylum Mollusca.

Had we had more time in this province, we would have enjoyed a trek in the Longji Rice Terraces. This famous area is north of Guilin and famous for its minority villages and incredible scenery. The mountains here are terraced from top to bottom and create a stunning landscape.

I will be wrapping up the Discovering China series tomorrow with Hong Kong where during our final days in China, we celebrated Sweeetie’s birthday.


This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration. Have you taken a peak at some of the other posts?  If not, I encourage you to do so. You’ll surely find something to inspire you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

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