A Guide to the Best Guilin Scenery Paintings

A Guide to the Best Guilin Scenery Paintings

By Candice SongUpdated Dec. 6, 2021
The Li River And Karst Hills At XingpingThe Li River and karst hills are the classic Guilin painting theme.

Guilin is counted among the world's most beautiful places and a popular tourist destination. This has been expressed through ink paintings mainly, but also other forms of Guilin landscape art. Guilin scenery paintings are probably the top type of painting in China because of the iconic landscape.

In Guilin, landscape paintings are outstanding pieces of art because they capture the essence of a celebrated rural culture and landscape. Both famous and ordinary artists have mastered the art of painting these masterpieces. Huang Binhong, Xu Binhong, and Li Ketan are some famous Guilin scenery painters.

Guilin paintings are usually purchased locally as souvenirs and are used as wall decor art.

The Art of Guilin Scenery Paintings

Guilin Landscape PaintingA Guilin landscape painting with typical elements: karst hills, watery reflections, mist, traditional buildings, and a cormorant fisherman on a bamboo raft.

Landscape painting in ink is the form of painting technique that most artists in Guilin use. Artists use this style to paint natural scenery such as the Li River, karst hills, the Longji Terrace Fields, cormorant fishermen, water buffalo, and other rural images. Chinese calligraphy brushes and ink are not only low-cost art-making media but also lend themselves to a detailed form of art. To understand more read Chinese painting techniques.

Guilin paintings in oil: Some painters choose to work with oils to give the paintings a brighter and more summery feel. Also, oil paintings create luminous, hardwearing colors and provide artists more time to work with their creations and make changes. Oils are better suited to the vibrant colors of Longji's rice terraces at harvest time, for example.

Freehand paintings: Freehand paintings are a looser style of painting usually used for landscapes. These paintings often feature exaggerated forms and express the artist’s feelings. Guilin freehand landscape paintings can be even more beautiful than the landscape itself!

Brushes and art materials: Different brush sizes are used to produce a high-quality finish in most Guilin artworks. The best Guilin scenery paintings use softer brushwork to paint peaceful scenes of nature and rural life. Painters dip the brush in black, blue, and green ink, or colored pigments, usually painting on paper or silk, which are classic Chinese inventions with a long history.

Recommended Tours:

Classic Guilin Painting Themes

Cormorant Fishing

Guilin Scenery PaintingGuilin scenery with a cormorant fisherman

The painting theme of the cormorant fisherman shows a beautiful and classic Guilin Li River scene. There is typically a cormorant perched on a bamboo fishing raft alongside a fisherman in a conical hat. Cormorants are birds of prey that are trained to dive into a river and fish for a share of the catch.

As the background of the painting, you will see attractive karst hills and often vivid sunsets. Early morning, dusk, and even at night are the usual times for cormorant fishing. Guilin painters use the freehand technique to make the paintings as expressive as possible, which appeals to art enthusiasts. 

The Li River

Karst Hills Along The Li RiverKarst hills along the Li River are the No.1 Guilin painting theme.

Guilin's enchanting landscapes along the Li River are captured in beautiful Li River photographs and paintings. Detailed water-ink brushstrokes depict reflections, ripples, 'phoenix tail' bamboo at the water's edge, and toothy peaks.

Guilin's Li Jiang paintings show the winding Li River cradled in the arms of the karst hills. Most painters in Guilin choose to highlight significant details like the white clouds, coils of mist, or brilliant blue sky, strangely-shaped caves, lush green mountains, and their reflections in the Li River waters with the use of much fine brushwork.

The foggy Li River painting is the soul of Guilin scenery. In this elaborate water painting genre, you will see the Li River and the hills wreathed in a thick cloud of fog. There is typically a waterfall that can also be seen from afar, a pagoda perched impossibly atop a steep cliff, and traditional farmhouses situated unwisely close to the Li, as if its tranquility could be preserved forever.

Painters in Guilin have mastered the art of producing archetypal Chinese features that imaginatively embellish the actual foggy Li River to the point of creating a fairy-tale world. 

Photographers take photos of the real Li River and try to capture at its very best. These photographs sometimes provide inspiration for Guilin's painters who then take the scenes to another level altogether: the sublime. See our Guilin photography tips.

Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk HillElephant Trunk Hill is the symbol of Guilin and its karst landscape, and therefore a popular Guilin painting theme.

Elephant Trunk Hill, or simply Elephant Hill, looks somewhat like an elephant drinking water from the Li River with its trunk.

The grey and white of the hill contrast with the greens of its verdure and the river below. Many flowery embellishments typically add more color to the painting. You can often see a traditional houseboat cruising the Li River.

In this painting genre, Guilin artists use a softer brush, and blue and green color pigments to paint peaceful iconic scenes. You will often see a clear blue sky reflected in blue waters alongside a mirror image of Elephant Hill. 

Other famous hills, such as Camel Hill in Seven Star Park and Moon Hill in Yangshuo, are seized upon by artists as themes for Guilin paintings.

The Longji Terraced Rice Fields

Longji Rice Terrace watercolor paintings and oil paintings are so colorful that you will not believe such scenes actually exist.

Bright orange and yellow pigments have been used by painters to color the ripened rice fields. Vivid green color pigments are used to portray the grass and forests around the rice fields. In the picture, there typically are a few small wooden ethnic minority houses, with maybe a water buffalo ploughing, or long-haired Yao women who live among the Longji Terraced Fields

Recommended Tours:
Things to Do in Guilin
All things you need to know view more

1. Yangshuo West Street

Yangshuo West StreetYangshuo West Street

Yangshuo's West Street is like a magnet in the center of the county where tourists can relax and enjoy the comfortable atmosphere. The street is 157 meters long and 8 meters wide

West Street is usually busy with hundreds of restaurants, souvenir shops, disco clubs, and bars. Travelers will be amazed by the multitude of souvenir items that they can buy. From embroidered silk cloth, wax-painted weaving, to embroidered shoes for women... and some fine Guilin paintings.

  • Address: West Street, the center of Yangshuo town (阳朔县中心西街)
Guilin trip
All things you need to know view more

2. Zhengyang Pedestrian Street

Zhengyang Pedestrian Street At NightZhengyang Pedestrian Street at night

This 500-meter pedestrian street has some of the best painting galleries that tourists can browse and buy from. Also, along the street, there are all manner of shops and bars restaurants that serve delicious foods. The street is busy in the evening.

  • Address: Zhengyang Buxingjie, the center of Guilin city (桂林市中心正阳步行街)
Recommended Tours:

3. Guilin Art Museum

Li River SunriseA beautiful sunrise view along the Li River: the inspiration for many a fine painting

Guilin Art Museum is one of the biggest museums in Southwest China that features historical exhibits, folk artifacts, and cultural relics. Tourists can get a chance to see and buy beautiful Chinese and Guilin scenery paintings of mountains, animals, and trees, which are on the second floor of the building.

In the museum, there are a lot of visiting artists, students, and art lovers.

Guilin Art Museum is conveniently located in central Guilin. 

  • Address: 15 Jiefang West Road, Xiufeng District, Guilin (桂林市秀峰区解放西路15号)
  • Entry: There is no admission charge!
  • The best time to visit is during regular daytime working hours: 8 am – 5 pm.

4. Guilin Museum

Chinese CalligraphyCalligraphy is a work of art in China, and it uses the same brushes and ink as some Guilin paintings.

Guilin Museum is known for its extensive Collection of historical and cultural masterpieces. It is considered a "cultural living room".

There are four exhibition halls in Guilin Museum including the permanent exhibition center and digital exhibition hall. The museum houses paintings and calligraphy collections, folk art, etc. for locals and visitors to appreciate.

Calligraphy is among the Top 10 Unique China Souvenirs that you may be interested in buying as well as seeing.

The museum is tucked away in Xishan ('West Hill') Park.

  • Address: 2 Xishan Road, Xiufeng Ditrict, Guilin (桂林市秀峰区西山路2号)
  • Entry: There is no admission charge.
  • The best time to visit is during regular daytime working hours: 9 am–5 pm from Tuesday to Sunday and closed every Monday except on national holidays
Recommended Tours:

5. Guangxi Normal University Art Shop

Guilin Jingjiang Princes MansionEntrance to the Jingjiang Princes' Mansion and Guangxi Normal University's downtown campus

This university art shop is located inside Guangxi Normal University near the Solitary Beauty Peak. Guangxi Art Shop is a place of masterpieces collected over a long time, with some of the paintings being centuries old.

There are four exhibition halls that house paintings from different periods and different painting schools. Also, there are many beautiful paintings, jewelry, handicrafts, jade articles, and calligraphy works by university students.

  • Chinese name: 广西师范大学美术店 Guǎngxī Shīfàndàxué Měishù Diàn 
  • Address: Zhonghua Road (Duxiu Road), Xiufeng District, Guilin (桂林市秀峰区中华路(独秀路))

6. Painted Fans in Fuli

Paper Fans In Fuli TownBeautiful painted paper fans in Fuli town

Fuli is a small town on the east bank of the Li River, 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Yangshuo County Town. It is one of the few best-preserved ancient towns in Guilin and is known as the "home town of painted paper fans" in China.

In the town, tourists can buy painted paper fans from shops along the streets. These paper fans are made of quality material and are both cheap and attractive, some of them holding in their folds some classic painted Guilin scenery. The paper fans are also known as "natural air-conditioners".

Recommended Tours:

7. Guilin Wayao Market

Guilin Woodcarving Of GuanyinThere's more than just 2D art at Wayao!

Guilin Wayao tourist wholesale market, west of Wayao Road has more than 1,000 wholesale shops. Although most tourists do not know about this market, there are beautiful paintings, art supplies, wood carvings, embroidery, jade, teapots and tools, knick-knacks, and much more being sold at very fair prices (after bargaining sometimes).

You can take bus 11 and alight at the Wayao stop and walk from there to the market entrance. Also, there is an alternative way of getting to the market. Take bus 99 and alight at "Wayao Tourist Products Wholesale Market".

Walking across the street can help you discover a lot of paintings as some are sold along the streets.

Shopping Tips:

  • Visit the market with a local as most sellers only speak Chinese.
  • Be wary of fake paintings. China Highlights guides can help you visit the market conveniently.

8. Ping'an Zhuang Village

The Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields

When talking about Longji Terraced Fields, tourist visitors are most often referring to the Ping'an Terraced Fields, the core tourist area of Longji Terraced Fields, which is most developed for tourism.

The best times to see its rice terraces are around mid-May when they are irrigated and September to October when the crops are turning golden. A large number of hikers and photographers visit the area during these months.

For brushwork art lovers, you can buy Longji Terraced Fields paintings in Ping'an Village.

Recommended Tours:

Explore Guilin with China Highlights

Based on your requirements, our guides can help you find fine Guilin paintings and to see Guilin's highlights your way. Below are some itineraries you may be interested in:

The Yangshuo West Street AeaThe Yangshuo West Street area is a bustling tourism zone with hundreds of restaurants, souvenir shops, and bars. Find all the souvenirs you could want a nd a place to relax there.

Our tours can be customized. Just tell us your interests and requirements, and we will tailor-make your trip.

What's a Tour With us Like?

A family of four that moved from US to China just released a video about their time in Guilin with us in October, 2021. Contact us to send a free inquiry.

We are here to help you...
start planning your tailor-made China tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip
China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
Featured on
info template feature on