Modern Guoliang
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Modern Guoliang
Written by Rick Archer
November 2011

Here in America, we have a saying: "You've come a long way, baby!"

Judging by all the recent pictures, today's Guoliang is a thriving tourist mecca.

It is easy to see why.  Guoliang is home to some of the most stunning scenery imaginable. 

In the past, I have been limited to reviewing Guoliang using the English-speaking parts of the Internet.  For this article, I cheated... I went to a Chinese-speaking website.  Lo and behold, I was suddenly treated to some truly beautiful landscapes. 

You are welcome to visit it yourself. Guoliang website

The entire website is in Chinese.  Fortunately, the pictures are in English... small joke.  Let's put it this way... the language of pictures is universal.

If you are like me, you probably don't read Chinese.  So do this: type "translate" into Google.  Or just click here: Google Translator

Cut and paste any Chinese script into the translation page and you will soon be reading Chinese text into English (or whatever language you prefer).

I won't say that "Chinese" translates to "English" very well, but it comes close enough to get the gist of it.  Besides, I'm sure the Chinese say the same thing about our strange English.

One word of caution: I am not positive about a lot of things.  Since I have never been to China, all I am doing is finding things on the Internet and sharing them here.

As a good example, I have no idea if this wonderful waterpool can be found at Guoliang.  I think this pool is there, but I am not sure. Just keep this in mind.

Paul Evans

Paul Evans is an Australian man who recently spent five weeks in China.  In particular he spent 3 nights in Guoliang.  Paul later contacted me to offer his pictures of the area. He also said he would be happy to answer questions about Kunshan and Guoliang. 

For example, one gentleman wrote me to ask about the traffic.  He said that traffic was reported to be one-way. 

I asked Paul about it.  He replied,

"I don't recall many buses doing the circle, not enough anyway. More likely (something I thought of while over there) is a system of "up in the morning, down in the afternoon".  Whether it was official or not I don't know but I did note quite early in the visit that buses didn't go down, at least when we were around that part of Guoliang.

We spent 3 nights there so did have time to get the feel of the area. For most cars too, it seemed the same, as you would expect I suppose...tourists come up in the morning, go home in the afternoon. For such a narrow road it was relatively incident free but I did see some quite hilarious situations....I just don't believe the Chinese are quite ready for cars yet!!!"

I can definitely report there is two-way traffic.  Go take a look at David Goorney's excellent 6-minute Guoliang Tunnel video on youtube.  There you will see 6 instances of cars passing cars.  They pass each other gingerly because there isn't much space, but they do pass. 

According to David, the tunnel is 1.3 kilometers long, 5 metres tall and 4 metres wide.  For us Americans still accustomed to our outmoded system, that would be 4/5ths of a mile, 15 feet high and 13 feet wide.

I noticed that David posted a second video where he photographed a car ride down the tunnel

As I took my ride, it did seem like a couple spots were too narrow to permit two-way traffic.  But then out of nowhere some idiot came up beeping violently behind's David's vehicle demanding to pass.  To my surprise, there was enough room.  The thing that bothered me is that this kind of aggressive driving was dangerous for a tourist.  Due to all the curves, tourists are frequently hidden from sight.

If you see either video, you will notice a lot of honking.  Since the road is full of curves, cars rounding the bends often honk in case a vehicle is coming from the other direction.  Quite frankly, David's video made this road resemble rush hour traffic. This picture gives the exact same impression.

In a way, the traffic is a sad development.  Hundreds of tourists are always walking this tunnel on foot. They are forced to dodge cars and listen to the annoying echoes of the honking as they climb up or down the famous tunnel. 

Too bad they can't rope the tunnel off for hikers only.  Given the rate of progress, it is probably only a matter of time before they have ski-lift style gondolas.  Perhaps then they can restrict the movement of vehicles to early morning and late afternoon.

As it stands, the tourists are at the mercy of the drivers. Five years ago I called this spot the most dangerous road in China.  At this point, I take that back. 

In my opinion, the only danger now is some poor tourist getting flattened by a car.  It really is ironic.  Guoliang came into existence because it was so remote.  Now its problem is too many people and too many cars. 

One very nice they have done is to fill in the "windows" with rock barriers for pedestrian safety and to enhance the attractiveness of the openings. 

Back when they first excavated the tunnel in 1972-1977, they created these windows as a way to shove the loose rock and gravel down to the valley below. 

From what they say, it took 13 villagers six long years to complete this project. Mind you, these were villagers, not professional tunnel engineers. 

These 13 villagers all came from the tiny village at the far side of mountain. They never dreamed this road would become a tourist destination.

The geography of this particular area fascinates me.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Guoliang is the name of

At the time, the people just want to have an easier way to access to the outside world. In 1972, China was in the depth of culture revolution, resource were scarce, so this tunnel was never an engineering project, just people blasting and hacking their way through rocks.




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