Monday, July 29, 2013

Diaolou Castle- The Perfect Blend of Traditional Chinese and Modern Western Architecture

Ladies and gentlemen who have deep interest in visiting places of architectural or cultural importance should not miss Diaolou Castle in Guangdong province of China. These structures are feature at UNESCO world Heritage Site since 2007. Diaolou castles were constructed in early 1920’s by Chinese migrants, who returned to China after the American gold rush. These castles were primarily used as watch towers during early 1920’s. These structures were built on high plinths to ensure protection from floods. These multi-storied towers facilitated surveillance and helped in protecting the villagers from bandits.

History Of The Diaolou

Traditionally Diaolou castles were built as a part of the village surveillance system. They were used as watch towers by Ming Dynasty rulers. These towers were structurally robust and were built objective of countering bandit attacks. These towers had thicker walls and smaller windows as compared to residential structures. The roof of these Diaolou castles featured shooting holes and blow horns to signal and combat bandit attacks. There were about three thousand Diaolou in Kaiping and nearby villages during the early 1920’s.

Kaiping has been centre of immigrant activities since the early days. Chinese workers, who travelled to America as laborers during Gold rush built the lavish Diaolou on their return to China. These Diaolou castles were a splendid way of displaying their wealth and their preferences. Diaolou castles display strong western influences. These castles are perfect examples of architectural blend of traditional Chinese and exotic western cultures. Roof tops of Diaolou castles depict the cultural influence of its owner.

Types of Diaolou

These structures exhibit Roman, European and South Asian influences. Diaolou can be classified in different styles on the basis of their roof. Popular Diaolou is

  • Colonial Style Roof: These structures have ornamental roof sculpts and they exhibit heavy influence of the colonial era.

  • Byzantine Roofs:  These structures exhibit influence of roman architecture. Use of arcs and domes is prominent in these structures.

  • Flat Roofs: These Diaolou was built by Chinese gentlemen who travelled to south Asia. Roof sculpts of these structures are similar to those found in Tokyo.

Must See Diaolou In Kaiping

Kaiping houses over 1800 Diaolou. Some of these prominent Diaolou in and around Kaiping are:

  • Yinglong Lou: This is the oldest surviving Diaolou in Kaiping. It was built in early 1400’s from stone, bricks and compressed clay. Yinlong Lou Diaolou is a three storied watch tower that has stood the test of time. This simple yet sturdy building was used for dual purposes. Lower floors were designed to provide adequate defense from the bandits, whereas the top-most floors were used for residential purposes. Tiny windows with iron railings are the hall mark of this building.

  • Ruishi Diaolou: This magnificent structure was built in 1921 and is the tallest standing Diaolou in Kaiping and surrounding areas. This structure has Byzantine styled roof. Roman influence in its architecture is evitable in the domes on the roof. Ruishi Diaolou is the best preserved structure in Kaiping.

  • Fangshi Denglou: This five storey structure resembles a light house with its enormous search light. Fangshi Denglou was erected post 1920 to ward off bandits. This structure was predominantly used as a watch tower. This magnificent structure is a feast to eyes especially at sunset.

  • The Majianglong Diaolou:  Cluster of 13 splendid Diaolou that expanded over to Nan'an Li, Qinglin Li, Hedong Li, and Longjiang Li villages is known as the Majianglong Diaou. These thirteen structures represent the emigrant Chinese culture. They stand tall in contrast to low lying houses and rice fields that surround them.

  • Tianlu Lou:  Tianlu Lou translates to Tower of Success in Chinese. This tower was built around 1925 as a communal tower. This structure has seven floors. First five floors in the tower feature 29 rooms that were used as watch posts by villagers. Sixth floor of this tower was used for hosting communal activities. This tower was used as a refuge during the floods of 1936, 1965 and 1968. Multi-storey pattern and sturdy concrete structure was essential in saving the villagers from the disastrous floods.

Tourists need to pay an entry fee to visit Major attractions in Kaiping.

Ways to Reach Kaiping Diaolou castle from Guangzhou

Best way to visit Kaiping is through Guangzhou. Guangzhou is well connected by airways, railways, and waterways. Buses and taxis are best ways to travel within the city. Guangzhou is approximately 140 kilometers away from Kaiping Diaolou. Tourists can choose to take a bus or rent a taxi to visit Kaiping. Bus ride from Guangzhou bus station to Kaiping Diaolou lasts for two hours. A rental taxi can be convenient for tourists who prefer to visit Diaolou at their own pace. Tourists who want to camp overnight at Kaiping can choose to stay at budget or premium hotels.