Guilin is a hugely popular tourist site because of its rich, natural landscapes and opportunity for outdoor adventure. Most who venture there will at some point take a river cruise or ride a raft down the Li River while gazing in awe at the mountainous landscape. However, when exploring the actual city center of Guilin, you will surely at some point find yourself standing on the bank of the central Fir Lake enjoying the view of the Pagodas of Sun and Moon. They are also known as the Silver and Gold Pagodas because of the color scheme they exhibit after sunset. They are truly a sight to be seen at night; you can expect to find a crowd of people taking photos and strolling around the area any day of the week.
The Sun Pagoda is the taller of the two at nine stories high, forty-one meters, and is made of copper and bronze. The Moon Pagoda is seven stories, thirty-five meters, and is made of glazed tile, which is illuminated in white light. In ancient China, Taoist philosophy was the basic understanding everyone lived by. Taoists described the universe in terms of Yin and Yang, which are two opposing yet complimentary forces that always exist. The Sun is attributed to be Yang energy while the moon was considered its Yin counterpart. This is the reason the two pagodas were named as such and they are paired together to be symbolic of Yin-Yang harmony.
Another way to think of Yin and Yang are like the positive and negative charges that we all learn about in grade school science courses. Even though the two forces, Yin and Yang, are equal and opposite in nature, the architects likely made the Sun Pagoda taller and of a more precious material to pay homage to the fact that the Sun has a stronger impact on our lives than the moon. Pagodas in ancient times were created as religious sites for contemplation and worship. The pagodas were built in modern times but in the exact style as the ancients constructed them.
An underwater tunnel connects the Sun and Moon pagodas to each other. Did anyone expect that at first glance? It is a nice surprise once you learn of it. The tunnel is glass on the top and sides so you can walk through and watch as fish swim right above your head. Once you cross to the second pagoda you can explore the lower level on foot then use the elevator to check out the other floors. From the top you can take in a view of downtown Guilin. There are also many historical and religious art works in the pagodas such as statues of Buddhist and other cultural symbols.
Continue exploring the perimeter of the lake once you have left the pagodas and you will find more traditional architecture lit up with modern lighting. It is an incredibly peaceful scene and would make for a nice after dinner stroll. The ticket price is 35 CNY, as of this writing, which is about five US dollars per person but children can enter free. When you visit this site, take a moment to think about the symbolic meaning of the pagodas, as it is actually a very pervasive concept. Safe travels!