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The Sun and Moon Pagodas: China’s Haunted Twin Pagodas in Guilin

Imagine a place steeped in ancient history, where towering structures pierce the sky, whispers of the past echo through the air, and legends of the supernatural intertwine with the breathtaking beauty of nature. This is Guilin, a city in southern China, home to the enigmatic Sun and Moon Pagodas, two majestic pagodas standing proudly on either side of the Li River. These architectural marvels have captivated travelers for centuries, not just for their breathtaking beauty but also for the haunting tales that shroud them in an air of mystery.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. History and Construction
  3. The Legend of the Haunted Twin Pagodas
  4. Exploring the Pagodas
    • Sun Pagoda
    • Moon Pagoda
    • Climbing the Pagodas
  5. Practical Information
  6. FAQ
  7. Conclusion


The Sun and Moon Pagodas, also known as the Twin Pagodas, stand as a testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of Guilin. These two distinct pagodas, named after the celestial bodies they represent, are more than just architectural wonders; they are intertwined with local legends and beliefs, adding an element of intrigue and mystique to their already captivating presence. Tales of ghostly apparitions, unexplained phenomena, and the lingering spirits of past lives have painted a picture of these pagodas as both beautiful and haunting.

History and Construction

The Sun and Moon Pagodas have their roots in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), a period marked by prosperity and cultural flourishing in China. The Sun Pagoda, standing tall on the eastern bank of the Li River, was built in 1059 AD, while the Moon Pagoda, located on the western bank, followed in 1091 AD. The pagodas were initially constructed as wooden structures, but they were rebuilt with durable brick and stone in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), retaining their original design and structure.

The pagodas boast a unique architectural style, blending elements of traditional Chinese architecture with influences from other cultures. Their octagonal base and multiple tiers, reminiscent of ancient Chinese temples, create a sense of grandeur and stability. The intricate carvings and ornate decorations that adorn the exterior walls showcase the exquisite craftsmanship of the builders.

The Sun and Moon Pagodas were not merely decorative structures; they served practical purposes as well. The pagodas were used as watchtowers, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and providing early warning of approaching dangers. The Sun Pagoda also housed a library, showcasing the importance of knowledge and learning during the Song Dynasty.

The Legend of the Haunted Twin Pagodas

While the pagodas are admired for their beauty and historical significance, it’s the legends that truly set them apart. Local folklore weaves a tale of the pagodas being haunted by the spirits of past emperors and their concubines. It is said that these spirits, yearning for peace and redemption, are trapped within the pagodas, their presence felt in the eerie stillness of the night.

The most common tale revolves around the tragic love story of Emperor Guangxu and his consort, Empress Ci’an. This tale, woven into the fabric of Chinese history, suggests that the emperor’s death in mysterious circumstances led to the consort’s suicide, their spirits forever intertwined. It is believed that their restless souls wander the pagodas, their mournful cries echoing in the wind.

There are numerous accounts of strange occurrences witnessed by visitors and locals alike. People claim to hear whispers and footsteps in the empty hallways of the pagodas, even when alone. They speak of sudden chills, unexplainable noises, and glimpses of shadowy figures disappearing into the darkness.

These tales, while often dismissed as mere superstition, have fueled the legend of the haunted pagodas. Whether these stories are based on reality or imagination, they have certainly added a layer of mystery and intrigue to the already captivating Sun and Moon Pagodas.

Exploring the Pagodas

Sun Pagoda

The Sun Pagoda, the older of the two, stands tall and imposing, its seven tiers reaching for the sky. Its brick exterior, weathered by time and adorned with intricate carvings, tells a silent story of centuries past. As you ascend the stairs, the sounds of the outside world fade away, replaced by the echoes of your footsteps and the whispers of the wind. The interior of the pagoda is adorned with Buddhist statues and murals, reflecting the influence of the ancient religion on Chinese culture. From the top of the pagoda, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Li River, the surrounding mountains, and the bustling city of Guilin, a breathtaking panorama that has captivated travelers for centuries.

Moon Pagoda

The Moon Pagoda, on the western bank of the Li River, presents a slightly different silhouette compared to its counterpart. While the Sun Pagoda boasts a more traditional design, the Moon Pagoda features a more elegant and delicate structure. Its nine tiers are adorned with intricate carvings depicting scenes from Chinese mythology and folklore, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Chinese culture. The Moon Pagoda also houses a collection of historical artifacts and local art, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the region’s heritage.

Climbing the Pagodas

Climbing the Sun and Moon Pagodas is an unforgettable experience. The ascent is a gradual one, allowing visitors to take in the beauty of the surrounding landscape and the intricate details of the pagoda’s architecture. As you climb higher, the city below seems to shrink, replaced by the vast expanse of nature and the feeling of being at one with the sky. From the top, the views are simply breathtaking. You can see the Li River snaking its way through the valleys, the verdant mountains rising majestically in the distance, and the city of Guilin bustling with life below. The feeling of standing at such a height, surrounded by such beauty, is truly humbling.

Practical Information

Getting There: The Sun and Moon Pagodas are easily accessible, located in the heart of Guilin. The best way to reach them is by taking a taxi or a local bus. If you prefer to walk, it’s a pleasant stroll from the city center, offering a chance to experience the local atmosphere and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Visiting Hours and Admission Fees: The pagodas are open to visitors throughout the year, with opening and closing times varying slightly depending on the season. Admission fees are relatively affordable, making these historical landmarks accessible to all. You can typically expect to pay a small entrance fee to access each pagoda, but the cost is usually less than 50 yuan per pagoda (around $7 USD).

Things to Do Nearby: Guilin is a city rich in history and culture, offering a wealth of attractions and activities for visitors. You can explore the Reed Flute Cave, a stunning cave adorned with dazzling stalactites and stalagmites, take a boat trip on the Li River, or visit the Elephant Trunk Hill, a unique rock formation resembling an elephant drinking from the river.


Q: Are the pagodas actually haunted?

A: The question of whether the pagodas are genuinely haunted is a matter of personal belief. While there are numerous accounts of strange occurrences and eerie experiences, these are often attributed to folklore and local legends. There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of ghosts or supernatural phenomena. However, the stories surrounding the pagodas add a layer of intrigue and mystery to their already fascinating history.

Q: What are the best times to visit the pagodas?

A: The best time to visit the Sun and Moon Pagodas is during the spring or autumn when the weather is pleasant and the crowds are smaller. Spring brings a vibrant display of blooming flowers, while autumn offers a stunning backdrop of golden leaves and crisp air. It’s best to avoid visiting during peak tourist season, especially during Chinese holidays, as the pagodas can get crowded.

Q: Are there any safety precautions to be aware of?

A: While climbing the pagodas is generally safe, it’s important to take some basic safety precautions. Wear comfortable shoes with good grip, as the stairs can be uneven and slippery. Take care when climbing, especially if you’re visiting with children or older adults. Be mindful of the surrounding environment and avoid climbing during inclement weather.

Q: What are some good photo opportunities at the pagodas?

A: The Sun and Moon Pagodas offer countless picturesque photo opportunities. You can capture breathtaking panoramic views from the top of the pagodas, showcasing the Li River, the surrounding mountains, and the city of Guilin. Consider framing the pagodas against the backdrop of the sunset or sunrise for a captivating photo.

Q: Are there any local customs or etiquette to be aware of when visiting the pagodas?

A: While the pagodas are historical landmarks, they are also considered sacred places by some locals. It’s important to show respect for the local culture and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting the pagodas, avoid making noise, and be mindful of your surroundings.


The Sun and Moon Pagodas stand as a testament to the enduring power of history, culture, and legend. Their unique architectural style, captivating stories, and breathtaking views have left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of travelers for centuries. Whether you’re seeking a glimpse into the past, a thrilling encounter with the supernatural, or simply a breathtaking escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, the Sun and Moon Pagodas offer a truly unforgettable experience.

Visiting these historic structures is more than just a sightseeing trip; it’s a journey into the heart of Chinese history and culture, a chance to connect with the past and appreciate the enduring beauty of a place that continues to captivate and inspire generations.