The enigmatic Huā Mountain Cliff Murals, 2000-year-old rock paintings of people and animals on sheer cliff faces, are the reason many people come to Guǎngxī. The red-painted murals are believed to be the work of ancestors of the Zhuang, who refer to Huā Mountain as pay laiz – mountain with colourful paintings – but why they were painted remains a mystery. For an idea of scale, the largest of 1900 distinguishable images is 3m tall.
The crudely drawn figures are barefoot and shown in silhouette. Many have hands raised and knees bent, accompanied by pictures of drums and animals – features that suggest celebration of harvest or victory.
For several years now, conservation has kept portions of the cliff shrouded in scaffolding, as China continues its application for the site's inclusion on the UN World Heritage list.
The admission fee includes a two-hour boat ride on a spectacular section of the Zuǒ River (左江; Zuǒ Jiāng) past ducks and fallen cliff faces. The boat leaves at 10am and 2pm; outside these times, you can hire a private boat – it's ¥300 to ¥500 for 90 minutes to three hours, depending on the type of vehicle used.
The only way to see this ancient wonder is by boat from the village of Pānlóng (攀龙), commonly known as Huāshān Shānzhài (花山山寨). The cliffs are in Níngmíng (宁明), a county between Nánníng and Píngxiáng.
Trains and buses that run between Nánníng and Píngxiáng stop at Níngmíng (宁明). From the train or bus station, pedicabs (¥30 to ¥50, 40 minutes) trundle to Huāshān Shānzhài.
Regular buses leave Níngmíng for Píngxiáng (¥13, one hour), Chóngzuǒ (¥22, 1½ hours) and Nánníng (¥70, three hours); the last buses leave at 6.30pm, 6pm and 7.50pm respectively.
Trains from Níngmíng to Píngxiáng leave at 12.30pm (¥9, one hour) and 7.28pm (¥9, 75 minutes). Trains to Chóngzuǒ (¥9, one hour) and Nánníng (¥26, three to four hours, 40 minutes) leave at 9.18am and 3.14pm.