The Reed Flute Cave in China is a landmark attraction in Guilin, Guangxi. It’s an old natural limestone cave (dated at about 180 million years), filled with a large number of spectacular stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations in weird and wonderful shapes.
Photo by Dennis Jarvis.
Many of the formations in the cave have been compared to recognisable shapes of mythological creatures and natural images, and the Chinese have given each of them a poetic name. For example, you have the Crystal Palace, the Virgin Forest, Dragon Pagoda, and the Flower Mountain. Within the cave, there are over 70 inscriptions emblazoned on the rock with ink, with some dating almost 2800 years ago!
But despite its early popularity and spectacular features, the cave was abandoned and forgotten for almost a thousand years before being rediscovered in the 1940’s by a group of refugees, fleeing Japanese troops. The cave’s biggest chamber, the ‘Crystal Palace of the Dragon King’ chamber was used as a bomb shelter.
After 20 years, in 1962, it was again formally reopened for the public. Today, it’s open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM for only a small admission fee, and a typical tour lasts for about an hour (though you can admire it for more if you so desire). If you’re wondering about the name, they call it the Reed Flute Cave because of the copious amounts of reeds that grow at the entrance to the site which are often collected to makes flutes and other small wind instrument. You can purchase reed flutes from outside the cave, though if you do, be sure to do a bit of bargaining – the vendors will always overprice initially.
But perhaps what makes the cave so special is the artificial illumination; generally, I’m all for leaving the natural beauties as they are, but in this case, I think the lighting actually makes it look more spectacular. The vibrant colors change every few hours, charming and delighting visitors. You can take pictures inside, but without using the flash.
If you’re considering visiting the cave, you should know that there are also other attractions nearby, such as Elephant Hill, and Fubo Hill (or Solitary Beauty Peak with the Jinjiang Ming Prince’s Mansion) – it should make for a very beautiful and interesting couple of days if you’re ever in the area.