Kaiping Diaolou and Villages

Features

Tall multi-storied buildings in Kaiping County were listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2007 as China's 35th World Heritage Site. These old buildings were built mainly at the end of the Qing Empire and in the beginning of the 20th century when ethnic warfare, village battles, wars, bandits and lawlessness troubled this area of Guangdong Province. Kaiping County was considered a backwater, and the people built these buildings to be small fortresses and watch towers for protection. Overseas Chinese and Chinese returning with wealth that they acquired in other countries funded most of the buildings, and this explains why the tall buildings have modern features and often include Western architectural styles.

There are three basic kinds of towers: watch towers, fortified residential apartment dwellings, and buildings constructed to be emergency refuges. In order to protect themselves and defend their area, guards needed tall little fortresses to use as their base and survey the countryside. These were the watchtowers. Clans and villages constructed fortified residential apartment buildings that they lived in or prepared as a refuge in case of danger. The area is a rice-growing area, and the tall apartment buildings had high foundations and also helped people to escape floods.

History

Life was hard in the Kaiping area (开平) when the Qing Dynasty collapsed and in the 20th century. Kaiping is on the coast, so a large number of people were able to leave to work in other countries, and some people returned with enough wealth to build fortress dwellings and towers. These were called diaolou in Chinese. Those who went overseas saw various styles of architecture in other countries, and they helped to design the buildings to mimic what they saw. So the mix of architectural styles that adorn the buildings is surprising.

Some buildings have domes and arches, and others employ Western-style columns. Many look somewhat like apartment buildings that were built in cities in the West at that time, but there are bars over the windows and other defensive features that weren't common in the West. The families and clans competed with one another for prestige and power, and they competed to build the tallest and grandest looking buildings. You can see Spanish or Muslim domes, towers that kind of look like pagodas, and buildings with Western architectural elements for decoration.

It is thought that about 1,800 diaolou structures remain in the area. Some of them are only three stories high, and the tallest is called the Ruishui Diaolou. It was built in 1921, and it is 9 stories high. The Chinese government is preserving many as a national heritage.

The UNESCO World Heritage Organization included the diaolou and the villages they are in as the "Kaiping Diaolou and Villages" historic site. The buildings are considered historic because they are in a relatively good condition and serve as a record of the migration of Chinese workers and of the their contact with the West.

China Highlights can help you customize a tour to visit the Kaiping Towers and other highlights in Guangzhou.

Transportation

Kaiping is about 130 kilometers or 81 miles southwest of Guangzhou.

  • Address: Kai Ping City in Jiang Men City.
  • Bus: Buses go to Kaiping from several bus stations in Guangzhou such as from the Tian He Bus Station or the Guangzhou Bus Station next to the main Guangzhou Railway Station. The ones at the Guangzhou Bus Station leave every 30 or 40 minutes from about 6:00 AM to about 7 PM. Travel time is about two hours. Once you get there, you can take a taxi or rent a van or perhaps find an organized tour. The various buildings are spread out, but foreign tourists who go there say that it is worth the trip to see the huge buildings amid simple small farms.

Questions and Answers About Kaiping Diaolou and Villages

wilson tang 2013-10-02
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There are five of us going from Kaiping to Guangzhou on Nov 16th - how do we get there by bus or minivan (with driver)? I am more interested in the minivan - the 5 of us will be bringing small luggages. How much would it cost? And, how do we make the arrangements?
Dear Wilson, Thank you for your inquiry. It's a pity that we are unable to arrange a minivan from Kaiping to Guangzhou for you. I suggest that you take a bus there. The bus from Kaiping to Guangzhou departs every 20 minute from Shuikou Bus Terminal Station (水口车站), and the cost is about CNY80. Doris Huang replied on 2013-10-04
Richmond Wong 2013-02-06
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Hi, I wish to travel to the Kaiping Dialous on either Wednesday 13 Feb or Thursday 14 Feb of next week. What is your price for the Kaiping Dialou tour for 1 traveller? I will be staying at the Guangdong Victory Hotel on Shamian Island. http://www.vhotel.com/english/contact.asp How will I pay for this tour? Ideally, I would like to pay cash on the day of my tour to the tour guide. I will also need an English speaking tour guide. Thanks!Richmond

Dear Richmond, i am sorry to tell you that we don't have can not arrange the tour for you due to the Chinese Spring Festivals which will start from the day after tomorrow and finish on Feb.14th. Do you think it possible to do the tour after the Holiday? I am glad to arrange the tour for you after the holiday if it is possible to you.

Simon Huang replied on 2013-02-06
Richard 2013-01-27
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Hi Whitney,Am just like Darrell wanted to vist Tiger mountian village( in Chinese) at Toi shan,I will be staying in Taicheng in Toi shan,for 1 night,please advice how long it take to travel to tiger mountian village? from Toicheng.Look towards for your reply,Thanks.
Hi Richard, from Taicheng in Toi shan, it is about 22km, 40mins by car. Whitney Liao replied on 2013-01-28
inge 2012-12-30
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Hi, we are staying in CAN in july, 2013, we would like to take a one-day trip to kaiping towers. What is the most easy way? We travel with 4 children, the youngest is 4 years old. Can we take a bus to kaiping and take a van with local guide over there? where do we find the local guides?Greetings from Belgium!

Hi Inge, where is CAN, please? Is it Canton/Guangzhou?

Whitney Liao replied on 2013-01-03
We stay in Guangzhou guest replied on 2013-01-04
Hi Inge,you can take bus from Haizhu Passeger Transport Station 海珠汽车客运站 to Kaiping. The bus departs at 8:10, 8:45, 9:20, 13:00, 13:30, 14:05, 15:10,16:40, 18:10, 22:10,takes about 3hrs. Whitney Liao replied on 2013-01-05
Darrell Wong 2012-10-15
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Hi there,Can I know that within Kaiping city, are there got a place called 虎山村 that located at 台山市. In the google map its only showed Baishazhen and can I know that 虎山村 is still exist in that area? As I''m still searching on it but couldn''t found any result other than ZhuHai, Pingshazhen, 虎山村.
Hi Whitney, Am just like Darrell,looking for the Tiger mountian in Toi shan.As he has mentioned too, not hoi peng.Cos am stayin 1 night in toicheng,wat is the distane from Toi shan to Tiger mountian. Look forward to your reply. Thanks. guest replied on 2013-01-27
It is about 1,000km. Whitney Liao replied on 2013-01-28

Hi Darrell, are you looking for the 虎山村 in Kaiping City or Taishan City, please?

Whitney Liao replied on 2012-10-16
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I updated this article on October 11, 2012
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