Kaiping Diaolou and Villages are known for featuring Diaolou which are defensive, multi-storied village houses found in Guangdong Province’s Kaiping. These villages showcase a flamboyant and complex fusion of Western and Chinese decorative and structural forms.
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Kaiping Diaolou and Villages are located in Guangdong Province’s Kaiping City. These villages were listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2007 and were listed in 2001 as the national cultural heritage in China. Diaolou are multi-storied, fortified structures which are much like towers. These structures exquisitely integrate Chinese and western architectural styles.
Some of the villages preserved had been constructed during the 14th centuries. The diaolous had been built initially in the sixteenth century. The structures were originally built for protecting the residents against forays and intrusions by the local bandits. These structures reached their peak during the 20s and 30s. More than 3000 diaolous are now scattered throughout the Kaiping area. Today there are around 1830 that are still well preserved.
The Architectural Styles
Kaiping has been a well known home for immigrants for decades. Many of them brought their architectural styles and ideas from the western world to China. Diaolous mainly use the Rococo, Baroque, Islamic and Romanesque decorative forms and architectural styles. There were made mainly with reinforced concretes. This was quite rarely seen in Asia during the 20s and 30s. The buildings are mainly western on the outside. However, on the inside everything is traditionally Chinese including the utensils and frescoes.
Diaolou is mainly made of concrete, bricks, compressed earth or stone. Despite the major differences between the decorative forms, architectural styles and building materials, all of them have a few common features. The doors and windows are very small and narrow. The watchtowers are on the topmost floor and have embrasures in four directions to provide great views of the entire area. Kaiping Diaolou and Villages are a great example of incorporation of cultural and natural landscape. Even though the buildings use western style, they still maintain a very harmonious relationship with the rural landscape. This creates a very spectacular and unique scene.
The Main Clusters
There are several diaolou clusters scattered throughout the area such as Fangshi Denglou, Zilicun, Jinjiangli and Chikanzhen Yinglong Lou. The oldest preserved structures can be found in Chikanzhen Yinglong Lou. It had been built during the Ming Dynasty in Emperor Wangli’s reign. The cluster is located in the Sanmenli Village.
This particular cluster of diaolou retains its primitive watchtower model. The structure is traditional square and is not influenced by the architectural styles of the west. The cluster in Zilicun consists of 9 diaolous and is located in the Tan Gkou Township in the Zilicun village. The residential houses here are fully compatible with their surroundings.
The diaolous of the Jinjiangli cluster are considered to be the most exquisite. The cluster is located in Xianggang Township in the Jinjiangli Village, northeast of the downtown area of the city. Behind this village stand Jinjiang Lou, Shengfeng Lou and Ruishi Diaolou, this is the tallest structure in the area. Diaolou is a very unique structure and it symbolizes the fusion of western and Chinese architectural styles and embodies the two cultures’ assimilation.