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The Watch Towers of Kaiping - 3 days/ 2 nights

 

Kaiping has become increasingly well known because of its "diaolou", fortified multi-storey towers, which were constructed in the Kaiping area from the early Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912), reaching a peak in the 1920's and 1930's, when there were more than 3,000 of these structures. Today, approximately 1,800 "diaolou"  are still standing. The "diaolou" served two purposes, housing and protection against forays by bandits. The Kaiping "diaolou" and villages were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007. This two night makes a wonderful short holiday from Hong Kong.

 
  
                  Kaiping_-__Jinjiangli_Village
 
 
 
A visit to Kaiping, the only UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in Guangdong Province, can easily be arranged from either Hong Kong or Guangzhou.
 
As the places of interest are widely scattered and because there is virtually no public transport available and little spoken English, by far the best way to get around is with a car/coach and driver, in the company of a guide who can lead you and tell you something about the sites.
 
 
Whilsy this little known region of China has a number of spectacular buildings unfortunately not very much seems to have been documented regarding their turbulent history. Much of the appeal of a day or so in his part of China rests with the typical, quiet and natural rural scenery.
 
 
The peaceful life that the people who built these amazing structures were looking for, unfortunately never eventuated. Impoverished local people, in their desperate bid for survival, were reduced to banditry and looting.
 
 
The oldest existing “diaolou” is a World Cultural Heritage Site and it stands in Sanmenli Village. It was built during the Ming Dynasty, approximately 460 years ago.
 
 
When the 19th century arrived, many of Kaiping’s residents moved to Hong Kong in search of a better life and many others moved to North America. Records indicate that between 1925 and 1938 there were 140,000 Chinese in America, most of whom came from this region of Guangdong Province.
 
 
Many of these individuals returned home with their hard-earned fortunes and built these extraordinary structures which were both homes and watchtowers. The unusual appearance of the buildings can be attributed to the melding of traditional Chinese architecture, with both contemporary and ancient Western architectural styles.
 
 
As the wealthy returned to China, others who were desperate to survive, preyed upon them and an increasing number of these fortified buildings appeared. Some of the watchtowers functioned purely as fortified structures where the village residents could store their belongings and seek protection in the event of attack by bandits, whilst others were privately owned watchtowers that only protected the inhabitants. These were often lavishly decorated with colonnaded balconies, high above the ground, where the occupants could catch the afternoon breezes.
 
 

In 2007, UNESCO named the Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (开平碉楼与村落) in China as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO wrote, "...the Diaolou ... display a complex and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They reflect the significant role of émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia, and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the close links between overseas Kaiping and their ancestral homes. The property inscribed here consists of four groups of Diaolou, totaling some 1,800 tower houses in their village settings."

 
 

DAILY ITINERARY         Departures can be daily.

 

 

Day 1      Hong Kong to Kaiping
 
 
Ferry_to_mainland
 
 
Depart Hong Kong by Ferry for Jiangmen   (The journey is approximately two hours).

 

Met on arrival at the Ferry Pier and proceed to the Jiangmen Wuyi Museum of Overseas Chinese (closed Monday). The Museum provides an excellent introduction to the sites you will be visiting.

 

Continue to Kaiping and visit the Fengcai Hall, a striking building and ancestral hall of the Yee Clan. It was constructed between 1906 and 1914 and is now part of a school. The structure is an unusual melding of traditional Chinese architecture with numerous Western influences.

 

Check in at the hotel and the remainder of the day is at leisure.

 

Hotel: Pan Tower International Hotel

 
 
Day 2       Kaiping Li Garden – Zili Village – Sanmenli Village - Kaiping 
 
Our first site today is the Li Garden, located in Beiyi Xiang. It was constructed in 1936 by Mr. Xie Weili, a Chinese emigrant to the United States.

 

The 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.

 

Continue to beautiful Zili Village for lunch. Another World Cultural Heritage Site, this is a particularly beautiful place with numerous "diaolou" in a rural setting of ponds and pathways. It is wonderful to merely stroll at this location. It is especially photogenic. Zili Village is also very popular with painters. There is a very good history exhibition. In addition there are four “house museums” open to the public.

 

At Sanmenli Village, another World Cultural Heritage Site, visit the oldest existing "diaolou". It was built during the Ming Dynasty, 460 years ago. 

 
  
Day 3        Kaiping – Chikan - Majianglong Village - Jinjiangli  Hong Kong    
 
 
Kaiping Jin jiang li Village
 

The day commences with a visit to Chikan town, established more than 350 years ago.

A typical town, representative of the booming economy of the 1920’s and ‘30’s, when Chikan evolved from being a country market-place into the business centre of Kaiping. Time will be spent in Chikan and will include a one hour walk from the Szeto Clan section of the town to the Kwan Clan section.

Continue to Majianglong Village, a World Cultural Heritage Site. Stroll through the bamboo forest and see some of the seven diaolou and eight villas that were constructed in the early 20th century. Many of the villagers emigrated to the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia. This is a very quiet and beautiful environment and two of the villas, which are open to the public, retain their original furniture from prior to the Cultural Revolution.    

At Jinjianli Village, also a World Cultural Heritage Site, see several of the most ornate and impressive "diaolou" in Kaiping. Stroll along the narrow alleyways, between the ancient buildings and admire expansive views over the countryside from the upper floors.

 

Transfer to Jiangmen Ferry Pier.

 

Return to Hong Kong aboard high speed ferry. 

 

 
 

This suggested itinerary can be tailored to suit your own requirements. It can also include other destinations in Guangdong Province or elsewhere in China.

 

 

Call Ash at Concorde Travel. 

 

To view a personal album of photographs take on a similar itinerary, click on the link below.