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The Watch Towers of Kaiping and the Maritime Silk Road Museum - 4 days/ 3 nights

 

 

 

Kaiping has become increasingly famous 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 three thousand 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 arrangement also includes the Maritime Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang. This tour makes a wonderful short holiday from Hong Kong.

 

                      Kaiping28 
                                             
 
 
 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.
 
 
 
This little known region of China has a number of spectacular buildings but 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.
 
 
 
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 – Chikan – Majianglong – Zili Village - Sanmenli Village - Kaiping 
 
Kaiping Chikan

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 theUnited 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 –  Kaiping   
 
 
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 andAustralia. 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.

  

Later, some leisure time for shopping or strolling in Kaiping.

                                   

  

 
 
 
Day 4                              Kaiping – Yangjiang – Zhongsha – Hong Kong

If you choose to depart from Kaiping earlier in the morning, you will have time to visit the beautiful Li Garden, built between 1926 and 1936. Covering an area of 11,000 square meters, this complex of buildings and gardens, retains the lingering charm of Chinese gardens coupled with the exotic atmosphere of Western architecture.

  
Continue to Yangjiang to see the Maritime Silk Road Museum. The Museum houses a ship which was discovered in 1987 off Hailing Island, where the Museum is located. The ship dates back to the early Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and is 30.4m long and 9.8m wide. It is surmised that the ship, now named “Nanhai No.1”, left port in southern China to trade with foreign countries and sank, probably due to stormy waves. It was quickly buried by silt.
 
 
  
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The Museum provides a first-hand look at the sunken ship which is immersed in a sealed glass container in a huge pool at the Museum. More than 200 pieces recovered from the wreck are on show, including ancient relics made from gold, silver, iron, pottery and porcelain, many of which have not been found before in China.
 
 
 
Transfer directly to Jiangmen Ferry Pier.
 
 
Return to Hong Kong aboard the 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.

 

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