Elephant Trunk Hill


RMB 40



How to get there:

Take bus no. 2 to Wenchang Bridge (Wénchāng Qiáo, 文昌桥). Walk across the bridge to reach Xiangshan Park (Xiàngshān Gōngyuán, 象山公园). You can also take the no.1 tourist bus which drops travelers off at the same location.

China's storied landscape is well populated by fantastically shaped natural features named for various mythological figures, especially animals. In fact, there are no doubt more famous rocks named after tigers, monkeys and elephants than there are actual tigers, monkeys and elephants remaining in what's left of the country's wilderness. One of the most famous is Guilin's Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiàng Bí Shān, 象鼻山), a striking natural arch that juts out into the Li River, bearing a clear resemblance to an elephant dipping its trunk into the water.

Although you can view the thirsty pachyderm from many different vantage points in Guilin, the best way is by boat. You can easily find a boat rental shop or a tour boat along the river; once you've secured river transportation, head south and cruise by the city's signature stone elephant, stopping to admire the huge natural arch beneath the "trunk" known as Water Moon Arch (Shuǐ Yuè Gǒng, 水月拱). You can also approach by land and make the climb up to the elephant's back, where you'll find a Ming-era pagoda overlooking the river. 

However you go, it's good to know something about the stories behind the name. All versions involve an overworked elephant who was left behind, in some versions by the emperor's army and in others by the Immortal Lord of the Sky. Not unlike many a contemporary tourist, the elephant took a liking to Guilin and stayed on to help the city's people, who helped him recover from his exhaustion. The elephant decided not to return to his master and was duly punished. One day, while drinking from the river, he was killed (in some versions by a sword, the handle of which is today's pagoda) and turned into stone, frozen forever in the place he chose to call home.

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