Jiangmen︱Kaiping Diaolou and Villages

Jiangmen, China
By GreaterGo Editor
3 Apr 2023

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages

Diaolou comes to many people’s mind when talking about Kaiping. Diaolou is the signature architecture in Jiangmen indeed. Why does Kaiping own so many diaolou? It is because there was a lot of crime in the Wuyi region with bandits and frequent floods. Since the five ports were allowed to conduct foreign trade, the status of Guangzhou was gradually replaced by another four ports. Then the migrants from other regions have scattered to the Wuyi, causing land issues that later turned to the competition for land between the Hakka and the native Cantonese. The conflict is historically known as the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars. Diaolou were residential buildings constructed for preventing enemies, thieves and flooding. 

Diaolou structures were usually built in the form of villages. The most famous diaolou is, of course, the Zili Village where the well-known Chinese movie Let the Bullets Fly took place in. One village usually consists of three forms of architecture, including communal towers, residential towers and watchtowers. The communal towers were constructed by the whole clan or a few individual families. They were the earliest form of diaolou, resembling the tenement houses (or “Tong Lau” in Cantonese) in Hong Kong. Residential towers built by individual rich families and are more aesthetic than the communal towers. Comfortable and unique, residential towers in Kaiping are like the houses in Mid-levels in Hong Kong. Watchtowers, as its name suggests, are the towers for guards to observe in the village entrance or on the hills. Watchtowers are equipped with searchlights and alarms to notify the entire village when enemies and bandits have been spotted.

Diaolou in Zili Village, Jinjiang Village and Majianlong Village are especially notable because many overseas Chinese financially supported the construction and went back to their hometowns to build the towers. These towers have a touch of architectural styles of the West. They feature ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine styles. 

Ruishi Diaolou, regarded as the “First Building in Kaiping”, in the Jinjianli Village, Mingshi Lou of the Zili Village and Tianlu Lou are not to be missed during your trip to Kaiping. The European styles of the first two towers are simply impressive. Going to the top of Ruishi Diaolou and Mingshi Lou, the scenery from the above is genuinely unforgettable as you can see the whole village there. At the top of Tianlu Lou, you can see the buildings of the earlier days. Tianlu Lou protected many residents back in the days. Yesheng Mansion in the Zili Village is closely related to Hong Kong because the owner used to do business in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, he was frightened to death after being robbed on his way back to Hong Kong from Kaiping to get more money. Each tower has its own characteristics and stories, making diaolou structures in Kaiping worth a visit.

Back to Top