Kaiping City, 140 km southwest of Canton, is home to one of the most strikingly artificial attractions: The Diaolou. These are multi-story watchtowers built by overseas Chinese to defend themselves from brigands. They present a mixture of surprising Eastern and Western architectural styles. Of the original 3,000 Diaolou, only 1,833 remain, and they have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2007.
Chinese name: 开平
Population: 748,777 inhabitants. (2021)
Area: 2,430 km²
Location: South-central part of Guangdong province, southern China
GDP (2018): 37.38 billion CNY (5.26 billion USD)
When and How to Get to Kaiping?
The best time to travel to Kaiping is spring and autumn. From February to April, the canola flower and peach blossoms associated with the Diaolou form a pretty backdrop. In autumn, from September to October, visitors can appreciate the vast expanses of golden rice fields.
If you want to visit Kaiping, you can take a flight to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and then take a high-speed train to Kaiping.
What to visit in Kaiping and its surroundings?
In Kaiping city, Diaolou groups in Majianglong Village, Zili Village, and Jinjiangli Village are the most characteristic local attractions. Other famous scenic spots include Li Garden, Chikan Old Town, Nanlou Memorial Park, and Peacock Lake Tourist Area.
The Kaiping Watchtowers, also called Kai Diaolou, are multi-story defensive village houses that reflect a fantastic combination of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They were added to the World Cultural Heritage List in June 2007.
Kaiping watchtowers were used to prevent flooding and to defend against bandits. These structures have retained their original purpose. Having been equipped with spotlights and an alarm, they make it easy to detect prowlers and alert the villagers.
Residential watchtowers are good examples of combining defensive and residential functions.
Considered the most beautiful surrounding village, it has 13 unique and well-preserved Diaolous hidden in the bamboo bushes and integrated with the surrounding modern residential buildings. Peach blossom in April contributes to the beauty of the landscapes.
Located about 20 kilometers east of Kaiping City and 30 minutes by car, Zili Village has various styles and exquisite shapes of the Diaolou, and only Mingshi Diaolou and Yunfang Diaolou are open to the public. Zili village also has a beautiful environment with lotus-covered ponds, rice fields, and grasslands. The best time to visit Zili village is from March to April when canola and peach trees are in full bloom.
Although the village is relatively small, its Ruishi Diaolou is the most exquisite, and the other two open to visitors are Shengfeng Diaolou and Jinjiang Diaolou.
Jinjiangli Village (锦江里) was once a thriving community, evidenced by the three impressive remaining diaolous. One of them is the Ruishi Diaolou mentioned above, the tallest remaining structure in this area.
Located in Kaiping, this exquisite garden has not only the charm of traditional Chinese gardens but also incorporates elements of European and American architecture. The garden is divided into three parts and connected by bridges, pavilions, and winding corridors with an ingenious design and beautiful landscapes.
Chikan Old Town
The Tanjiang River runs through the city, and many commercial arcades built in the 20th-century stretch for several kilometers. The unique style of the town is characterized by an old cobbled street, rusty window grilles, and elegant traditional carvings. Here you can find many places to eat and taste the local gastronomy.
Sanmenli (三门里) is a sleepy community with an impressive fortified tower at its center. Strolling around here does really feel like time has stood still, and you’ll be hard-pressed to bump into another tourist. The locals are cooking up regional cuisine in the nooks of the alleys for those who wish to try local flavors.
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