开平碉楼Kaiping Diaolou (the Watchtower-like Houses)
[Introduction of Kaiping Diaolou]
Kaiping is a small city in Guangdong Province, about 100 kilometers to the southwest of Guangzhou, with an area of 1659 square kilometers and a population of 680 thousand. It has long been known as the native land of a great many overseas Chinese, the number totting up to or even more than its domestic population. The Chinese, you know, are a nostalgic people having a strong feeling of wistful longing for home, so the overseas Chinese from Kaiping, no matter how long they had been away and how far they were away from home, would come back to buy a piece of land to build their house and to get married. Those houses built by the returned overseas Chinese during the late 19th and early 20th centuries are all watchtower-like, with thick solid walls, small and narrow iron doors and windows, and even with embrasures on the walls and an observation tower on the top.
You may wonder why these returned overseas Chinese had their houses built into a structure of a watchtower. Well, the reasons are clear. First, public order at that time was bad and banditry was a real headache and the better-off returned overseas Chinese families naturally became targets for robbery; second, the Kaiping area is a stretch of low-lying land and folds were a frequent occurrence. So, these solid and high-rise buildings were good both for defense against bandits and for refuge from the floods.
So, “Kaiping Diaolou” is a proper name of the multi-storied defensive country houses of the returned overseas Chinese in Kaiping City. Built of stone, brick or concrete, these buildings display a fusion of Chinese and foreign architectural and decorative forms, and reflect the significant role these emigrant Kaiping people had played in the development of the countries they resided, in South Asia, Australasia, North America and other regions of the world.
开平碉楼是集儿子备卫、寓居和中正西修盖艺术于壹体的修盖帮体，被誉为“华裔文皓的模范之干” 、“世界修盖艺术落物馆” 。开平碉楼在鼎盛时间臻3300多座。当前，吊销在册的拥有1833座。开平碉楼是国政院颁布匹的国度重心文物维养护单位。当前开平碉楼已申报世界文皓遗产。从干用上，拥有用干家族寓居的居楼、村人壹道集儿子资兴修的群楼以及首要用于打更放哨的更楼叁父亲类。在20世纪二叁什年代，开平碉楼更成为共产党的地下活触动场合。
Kaiping Diaolou is listed by the Chinese State Council as a key cultural relic protected by the state. Its total number amounted to 3, 300 in the peak years and now the registered number is 1833, and twenty of the better ones are inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. Org (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). These buildings take three forms: communal tower jointly built by. Several families for use as temporary refuge, residential tower built by individual rich family and used as fortified residence, and watch tower for guarding against bandits. In the 1940s during the war of resistance against Japan, some of these towers became strongholds for people’s militia.
[The Diaolou Structures in Zili Village]
The Diaolou structures in Zili Village, 12 kilometers away from the Kaiping city center, are the most magnificent and best preserved. There are 15 in all, which are all listed as key cultural relics protected by the state. Among them the Mingshilou is the best of all. Built in 1925, it is a 5-storeyed reinforced concrete structure, with an hexagon observation pavilion on the top and a blockhouse built on the outside walls at each of the four corners on the fifth floor. This huge and imposing tower is installed with heavy iron doors and strong iron windows, and is luxuriously decorated and well furnished.
Other well-known Diaolou structures are the Yinglonglou in Chikan Town, the Ruishilou in Yan’gang Town and the Fangshe Denglou in Tangkou Town. They were built in different years by different families and so are different in architectural style. The Yinglonglou, built during the Jiajing Reign of the Ming Dynasty in the middle of the 16th century (1522 – 1566), is the oldest Diaolou structure and is free from foreign influence in architectural style. The Ruishilou, a 9 – storied 25-meter high reinforced concrete structure, is the most luxury and is laid out and furnished in the traditional Chinese pattern. The Fangshi Denglou, a reinforced concrete structure built in 1920 by the Fang family, is typical of the Diaolou structure as a watchtower for it was located in an open land and was provided with electric generator,searchlights and guns.
[The Li Garden]
Another tourist attraction in Kaiping City is the Li Garden. It was a private residential garden built in 1926 – 1936 by an American Chinese, Xie Wei Li by name. The garden’s name “Li” was derived from the name of its owner and it gives expression to the meaning of a Chinese idiom Xiu Shen Li Ben, which is written on an archway in the garden, meaning that cultivating one’s moral and character is the key to success in one’s life and work. This idea of the owner’s is also embodied in many other inscriptions and couplets written in the garden.
The Li Garden is laid out in the way of traditional Chinese gardening but many of its structures are built in Western styles, such as the two Roman-styled structures popularly known as the Bird’s Nest and the Flower & Rattan Pavilion. The garden covers an area of 19, 600 square meters, with a man-made stream running through and cutting it into two parts, which are connected by arch-bridges. Along the stream are pavilions, a hundred-meter-long corridor, archways, residential houses and other structures.
The residential buildings in the villa area are also combinations of Chinese and Western architectural elements. While their main structures are foreign-styled, some are roofed like a Chinese palace, and inside they are decorated and furnished with both Chinese and foreign artifacts: Western fireplace and pendent lamps, Italian ceramic tiles, Chinese wooden furniture, wall paintings depicting Chinese folk stories, Chinese gilded wood-carvings etc.The Li Garden is indeed a paragon of harmonious combination of the Chinese and foreign cultures.