Elephant Trunk Hill is a natural karst attraction in Guilin in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. This hill stands 656 feet (200 meters) above sea level and is located where Li Jiang River meets Peach Blossom River.
Around the area of the Elephant Trunk Hill you can find different boats including bamboo ones that would take you closer to the hill. There are also some statues of elephants on the water next to the coast to make you always think about elephants when you look at the hill.
Elephant Trunk Hill has been the symbol of Guilin for a long time. The reason the natural attraction is called Elephant Trunk Hill lies in its shape. If you watch it from side, it looks like a giant elephant drinking water with its trunk from the river.
When you imagine the elephant drinking water, you can see there is a large hollow round shape between its trunk and body. This hollow shape is called Moon over Water Cave because it looks like a fool moon on water. If you see this part of the Elephant Trunk Hill at night with moon shining on water, it will make a memorable scene for you.
If you head to the top of the Elephant Trunk Hill through the stairs, you can find an old Ming Dynasty pagoda, named Puxian Pagoda. When walking at the foot of the Elephant Trunk Hill you can face the Yunfeng Temple and inside of it lies the exhibition of The Revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Guilin.
Tales of Elephant Trunk Hill
Elephant Trunk Hill has been an attraction in Guilin for a long time and therefore there are many tales about it.
One of the tales is about how Elephant Trunk Hill came to be. The tale is about ancient times, when there was an elephant belonging to the Emperor of Heaven. One day the elephant comes down from heaven to earth to help the people with their work.
When the Emperor of Heaven understood the work of the elephant and made him very angry. So when the elephant was drinking water, the Emperor stabbed the elephant and forever changed in into stone on water.
There is another popular tale about the Elephant Trunk Hill. This tale happens in ancient time and is about seven traveling fairies that descend from heaven to visit the beauties of earth.
The youngest of the fairies saw that because of the floods, the people living along the Li Jiang River were going to be starved. This really touched her and she took pity on them.
She returned to earth but this time she also brought The God of Elephant of the Jade Emperor to help people but the Emperor found out and raged with wrath. He then ordered his celestial general to return the fairy.
The God of Elephant never had the chance to go back because of the sword stick on its back and it became the Elephant Trunk Hill.
One day, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva was passing through the area and saw The God of Elephant with the sword stick on the back and he was touched by what The God of Elephant has done. So he pulled the sword out but The God of Elephant could not move because of the burden of its violations against the Heaven Palace.
In order to keep The God of Elephant in his place, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva put his magical vase on its back. According to legends, this vase later became the Puxian Pagoda which resembles to the handle of the sword in some tales.
After a long time, when Samantabhadra Bodhisattva was passing from that area again, decided to free The God of Elephant but he had already become a hill and therefore could not return to the Heaven Palace.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva looked the area around and understood no one resides there because The God of Elephant had disrupted the flow of the water and it was so dirty to be used by men or animals.
He also noticed this happened because there were not any stones at the bottom of the river and the soil could not set. Witnessing this, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva turned his white elephant into a golden stone and put it in the river. After this the water miraculously became crystal clear and many of the residents returned to the banks of Li Jiang River and stayed there.
The People were so touched by The God of Elephant, they named the hill, The Elephant Hill or Elephant Trunk Hill.
Puxian Pagoda, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva Vase
Based on some legends, the Puxian Pagoda which stand on the top of the Elephant Trunk Hill, was once Samantabhadra Bodhisattva Vase. If you know that Chinese know Samantabhadra Bodhisattva as Puxian Pusa, it may help to relate some names here.
In reality this building erected during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and have been considered as the handle of the sword that killed the elephant.
The Moon over Water
The Moon over Water cave located between the body and the trunk of the elephant has been a source of inspiration for poets and writers from ancient times till now and you can find these engraved on its walls. Especially poems of Lo You, Fan Chengda and more from different dynasties, provide both Literary and historical value to this place.
It was formed 12000 years ago when the earth’s crust uplifted. Due to this, Li Jiang River started to shrink which accelerated the creation of the round Moon over Water Cave. The floor of the cave is almost always filled with water that resembles a bright moon floating, so the name Moon over Water is still in use.
It is about 56 feet (17 meters) long, 31 feet (9.5 meters) wide and 39 feet (12 meters) high and covers about 1614 square feet (150 square meters) of land and water. The entrance of Moon over Water Cave faces the sun, hence it is also called Facing Sun Cave.