Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 18 – Guilinggao

Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, Guilinggao.

Guilinggao (龟苓膏 guī líng gāo) is a herbal jelly used both as a medicine and as an ingredient in desserts. It is also known as turtle jelly.


The preparation originally included the powdered shell of a type of turtle, the “Golden Coin Turtle” (Cuora trifasciata; 金钱龟 jīn qián guī), hence the name which translates as “Turtle fungus paste”. This turtle is now prohibitively expensive and so, today, when turtle is still used, the shells of more common turtles are used instead. However, many modern examples contain no turtle shell. Instead they rely on the other ingredients which include extracts from various herbs, most importantly smilax glabra, a plant related to sarsaparilla.

Guilinggao is black or dark brown in color. Naturally, it is slightly bitter, although sweeteners such as honey can be added to make it more palatable.

Relatively inexpensive canned guilinggao with pop tops and little plastic spoons for immediate consumption can be found in all supermarkets and corner shops.

If you want to make it yourself, you can buy powdered shell, often labelled “Tortoise Powder”.

Guilinggao is a specialty of Wuzhou in Guangxi. It has no connection with Guilin.

. This entry was posted on Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Friday Food 18 – Guilinggao”

  1. Orsonling Says:

    “Ling” is “茯苓” (not Orsonling). Is “茯苓” the Chinese for “smilax glabra”?

  2. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    No. 苓, on its own, just means fungus or tuber. 茯苓 (fú líng) is Poris cocos, an edible fungus which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, but you wouldn’t want in your mushroom omelette. Smilax glabra (Chinese: 土茯苓 tǔ fú líng) is sarsaparilla.

    Neither have anything to do with the topic in hand.

  3. Da Wei Says:

    Interestingly, this came up in our ‘Chinese Corner’ the week before.

    I had acquired a dvd (probably pirated!) of a tv series called Mandarin Duck River.

    At one point a street seller plies her trade pushing a cart and yelling out ‘Guilinggao’. She sells the product (just like in your picture) to one of the characters who takes it home for her boarder (a music teacher at a local school).

    Our teacher described it as a vegetable jelly, but you have given me much more interesting information, such as the origin of the name.
    Many thanks. I enjoy your articles. Keep it up!

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