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Visiting a Chinese UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kaiping Diaolou

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (开平碉楼和村落)

Kaiping Diaolou, watchtower-like folk houses, are fortified multi-storey towers mainly located in Kaiping City, Jiangmen, Guangdong Province. They feature a unique architectural style, which combines an elegant Western style with the earthy countryside of southern China.

The Diaolou harmoniously coexists with the surrounding rural landscapes, and reflecting a complex and brilliant integration of Chinese and western building structures and decorative forms. They also integrate defense, residence and art of Chinese and western architecture.

Kaiping is located between Xinhui, Taishan and Enping and was not administrated over by any of the four counties since the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and 1644. Therefore, it was a chaotic place with rampant bandits. In addition, there were many rivers causing numerous flood disasters when typhoons and storms hit, therefore the local villagers had to build the Diaolou for self protection.

The diaolous were built at the beginning of the 19th century, mostly by overseas Chinese. These immigrants saved money and returned to their homeland to build the unique Chinese homes using knowledge they gained about Western architecture.

The number of Diaolou was originally more than 3,000. Now there are 1,800 units scattered over 15 counties. They were first built in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and were booming in early 1920s with the development of overseas Chinese.

Diaolou served as the filming site of the famous movie “Let the Bullets Fly”. Due to abundant numbers and varied architecture styles, it is referred to as the Museum of Watchtower Houses.

Based on the criteria C(II)(III)(IV) for selection cultural heritage, the Guangdong Kaiping Diaolou and Villages were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List on June 27, 2007.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Kaiping Diaolou and Villages as UNESCO World Heritage. On June 10, China’s first Cultural and Natural Heritage Day, Kaiping

Admission: 180 yuan/person

Best time to visit: April to September

Add.: Zili Village, Tangkou Town, Kaiping, Jiangmen

Transportation: Take an intercity bus from your city towards Kaiping, then you could rent a car or take a taxi at Kaiping to go around to see Diaolous scattered throughout the countryside. Hiring a local guide is a wise choice.

Photos: Newsgd.com/Monica

Source: Newsgd.com, Shenzhen Daily, China Daily

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