World Heritage Classification: Cultural
Location: Kaiping City, Guangdong Province
The diaolou or fortified
watchtowers found in Kaiping, Guangdong Province, were first constructed
in the early Qing dynasty (1644~1912). They reached their peak in the
1920s and 1930s when there were estimated to be more than three thousand
of these structures and according to a recent survey carried out by the
Kaiping City Government, there are over 1800 diaolou still standing. In
2001 the State Council declared the Kaiping Diaolou a Protected Cultural
Relic in view of their special significance in
The Diaolou were
fortress-like buildings constructed with a dual function in mind: for
housing and as a defensive structure to provide protection against
forays by bandits. The multi-storey towers had thick walls with slits
for surveillance and their solid structure meant that they could
withstand both enemy attacks and inclement weather such as flooding.
Diaolou can be divided
into three basic types: genglou, zhonglou, and zhulou. The genglou were
strong plain structures built near a village to provide communal
defence. The villagers would contribute money collectively and each
family would be entitled to a room.
At the other end of the
range, the zhulou were built in the country and were the epitome of the
dual Diaolou function. The zhulou were high and spacious with exquisite
sculpted details and offered tasteful, comfortable living quarters.
Since the fourteenth
century, Kaiping has traditionally been a
region of major emigration abroad, and a
melting pot of ideas and trends brought back by
overseas Chinese made good. This is also reflected in the
plethora of influences seen in the architectural styles of
the watchtowers, with the interesting feature that western
details are produced with local bricks and materials.
Feature: Fortified watchtowers incorporating
architectural features from China and the West.
The Main Scenic Spots:
Ruishi Diaolou is located behind
Jinjiangli Village, Lianggang Township. It covers an area of 92 square metres,
and was constructed in 1921 at the peak of the style’s popularity. It has nine
floors and is the highest diaolou at Kaiping. Each floor has square windows in
alignment with the top three floors of pavilions and winding corridors. The
Byzantine style roof and Roman dome supported by walls and pillars are quite
Diaolou cluster, Zili Village
This diaolou cluster is spread across three villages
(Anhe li, He’an li and Yong’an li) and has 15 well
preserved diaolou and houses. The Mingshi Lou(1925),
with all its original furnishings inside, is an excellent
example of a diaolou.
Located in Beiyi Xiang, the Li Garden was
constructed in 1936 by Mr. Xie Weili, a Chinese
emigrant to the United States. Li Garden occupies 11,
000 square metres with artificial waterways, bridges,
pavilions and corridors.
There are several yellow brick blue-tiled buildings
in the garden, which demonstrate the fusion of western
and Chinese designs, and the gardens flourish with a
variety of flora, including the Chinese redbud, kapok,
cypress and other precious flowers and plants. This
exquisite combination of architecture and wildlife makes
Li Garden both idyllic and panoramic.
Built in 1920 after contributions from villagers,
this denglou is five storeys high. It is referred to as the
“Light Tower” in reference to the fact that it had an
enormous searchlight as bright as the beam of a lighthouse.
Bianchouzhu Lou (The Leaning Tower)
Bianchouzhu Lou in Nanxing Village was
constructed in 1903. It has seven floors built over a period
of two years due to financing difficulties. By the time the
third floor was under construction, the house was already
leaning, and currently the central axis is over two metres
off centre. Nevertheless, it has survived numerous
earthquakes and typhoons in the past century, making
it the most famous leaning diaolou in Kaiping City.
The Leaning Tower