Yangshuo was China’s first real backpackers’ haven, and this has resulted in the availability of a disproportionate range of cultural pursuits for such a small town. From Chinese cooking to calligraphy, painting, pottery and kung fu, it’s all here. All the below options can be booked through hotels, cafés and travel agents around town or directly from the businesses themselves.
♥ Calligraphy & Painting
The dramatic limestone scenery of this area has been attracting painters to Guangxi for a long time. Some of the Chinese scroll paintings you might see around the country, and indeed, the world, were inspired by these hills, the swirling mists adding depth and mystery to the landscapes.
Traditional scroll paintings are a very stylized art form, but contemporary painters are also attracted to the area, so you can choose the technique you want to learn. To try your hand at either discipline, seek out Forest, an eccentric painter/calligrapher who likes to be known as Yangshuo’s Picasso and sells his wares from on the corner of West Street and Xianqian Jie, just outside Café China.
Forest can also teach those who wish to study calligraphy, the artistic portrayal of Chinese characters. Half-day lessons for either calligraphy or painting cost ¥50 per person, including materials.
♥♥♥ Chinese Cooking
If you want to learn more about the delicious dishes you enjoy on your trip, Yangshuo has several good cooking schools. Classes are hands-on, with each student getting their own ingredients, stove and utensils. After you’ve cooked your dish, you’ll then get to eat it and can ask the master chefs where you went wrong!
Of the schools, Yangshuo Cooking School (www.yangshuocookingschool.com) is the most professional and is run by an Australian lady, Pam, although the instructors are all local. The school is located in a converted farmhouse a few miles out of Yangshuo at Chaolong and the classes, which also include shopping for your ingredients at the local market, start at and Classes cost ¥100 per person (including transfer) and must be booked by the day before.
Another great cooking school is run by the owners of Cloud 9 and Seventh Heaven, William and Linda. Linda (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an excellent cook and has even appeared on TV with famed Hong Kong chef Martin Yan. Their classes are equally good. The school is located above Cloud 9 Restaurant.
Classes start at and daily, costing ¥80 for three hours, including a shopping trip to the local market. A recent addition to the cooking school scene is Sunlight Farmhouse, out by Moon Hill, which is operated by Rose Mo (email@example.com). Classes here cost ¥80, including being driven to and from the school, and you could even ascend Moon Hill after the lesson if you want to burn off some of the calories you just acquired.
If you want to learn a little about the art of geomancy, William from Seventh Heaven runs guided tours of local villages where you can see traditional fengshui in practice. Tours cost ¥200 regardless of the number of people in your group.
As one of the first places many people visit on a trip to China, Yangshuo makes a good place to pick up a bit of the lingo, though don’t expect miracles overnight. While far from impossible, Chinese is nonetheless a tough language to learn. There are a number of small “schools” providing everything from private classes to full-blown courses. Of these, the most professional is Omeida on Pantao Lu (www.omeida.org).
They run a variety of courses, of which the four-hour “50 most popular Chinese sentences,” costing ¥160, is of most use to shortterm visitors. If you’re interested in staying for longer, Omeida also runs exchange programs, as long as you’re prepared to commit to at least eight weeks.
These programs allow you to study Chinese (and other traditional Chinese pursuits) for two-four hours a day in return for teaching English for a similar period time. Include are accommodation, lunch and dinner. Fees start from US$420 for four weeks, up to nearly US$ 3,000 for 40 weeks.
Teaching English. Teaching English is an option that will allow you to replenish your travel funds a little and maybe pick up some Chinese as well. Most schools around town welcome help, whether you just attend an evening English session in exchange for a free pizza, or spend a few weeks teaching for a (minimal) salary along with a free room, meals and maybe a bicycle. It’s technically illegal for foreigners on a tourist visa to teach for money, but it’s commonplace – watch for notices in cafés.
Volunteer English Teachers (tel. 0773-8811-420) is a local organization that runs unpaid placement programs. They post you out to local village schools where you’ll teach English to kids who would otherwise have no opportunity to learn the language. VET is run by a Canadian couple, Laurie and Betts, who are happy to receive any kind of help, whether that means just an hour of your time, a month or a financial donation.
Yangshuo has a number of martial arts schools teaching both kung fu and tai chi.
Of these, the most renowned is Long Tou Shan (www.longtoutaichi.com), a little out of town near the Li River Retreat which offers Chen and Yang style tai chi, fan and sword work and qigong (an aspect of traditional Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures).
Classes are taught by English-speaking qualified national instructors, including Lou Mei Juan who studied under Chen Zheng Lei, one of China’s most highly regarded tai chi practitioners. Lessons can be taught in Yangshuo for ¥50 an hour, but for courses it’s better to stay at their retreat as exercises begin early and include five to six hours of practice per day.
Residential courses are available from ¥1,100 per week, which includes accommodation and three vegetarian meals a day.
Another good school is the Lijiang School of Culture and Art on Diecui Lu (www.lijiangschool.com), which is run by the affable master, Henry Huang, who speaks fluent English and also offers instruction in calligraphy, mah jong and painting. Henry teaches a number of kung fu styles including shaolin longquan and tai chi. Classes are taught in Yangshuo Park and down by the river, or indoors if it’s too hot. They cost from ¥50 an hour for tai chi and ¥80 an hour for kung fu.
Read more about Martial arts in China
Yangshuo travel guide
Getting there & around,
Yangshuo Adventures : Hiking, biking,
Climbing, Caving, Water Sports, Ballooning
Maps of Yangshuo
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