Kaiping watchtowers, also called Kai Diaolou, can be seen everywhere in villages and towns of Kaiping city, whic is near to Guangzhou. Kaiping Watchtowers and Villages feature the watchtowers and the mutil-storyed defensive village houses in Kaiping. They reflect a complicated and fantastic combination of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. It was added into the World Cultural Heritage List in June, 2007.
Kaiping watchtowers witness the political, economic and cultural development of Kaiping city. They not only reflect the history of overseas Chinese people’s hard work and defending the homeland, but also a living museum of modern architecture, a unique art gallery. It can be said, as a town of overseas Chinese, architecture and art, the feature Kaiping has been sharply expressed by these watchtowers.
Located in Kaiping, Jiangmen City, Guangdong Province, Kaiping watchtowers reached more than 3,000 in golden time, but the number of existing watchtowers totals 1833. The enormous, various and exquisitely-made watchtowers is quite rare in the domestic, even the international vernacular architecture area.
Classification of Kaiping Watchtowers and Villages
【Classified by the materials】
There is a wide range of watchtowers in Kaiping. Classified by the materials, they can be divided into four categories: stone watchtowers, rammed earth watchtowers, brick watchtowers and concrete watchtowers.
Stone watchtowers are mainly located in hilly regions. Some walls of the watchtowers were built by regular-processed stones and the others were built by natural stones filled with soil. The number of existing stone watchtowers is 10, accounting for 0.5% of the total number of Kaiping Watchtower.
Rammed earth watchtowers are mainly located in hilly area in Chishui Town and Longsheng Town. The kind of watchtower is called “earth watchtowers” by the local people. Although these watchtowers have gone through decades of wind and rain erosion, they are still very firm. The number of existing Rammed earth watchtowers is 100, accounting for 0.5% of the total number of Kaiping Watchtower.
The bricks used to build brick watchtowers were divided into three types: the red bricks fired in indigenous way in Ming Dynasty, the black bricks fired in Qing dynasty and Republic of China era and the bricks fired in modern time. The red bricks fired in indigenous way in Ming Dynasty are quite rare in Kaiping. The number of existing brick watchtowers is 100, accounting for 0.5% of the total number of Kaiping Watchtower.
Concrete watchtowers were mostly built in1920s and 1930s. They took different characteristics of building design and construction around the world, reflecting the combination of Chinese and Western architectural features. The whole towers were built with cement (usually imported from England, which was called “red mud”), sand, gravel and steel built, which make the watchtowers extremely durable. Since the construction materials relied on importing from the foreign countries, cost was quite high. So in order to save materials, some of the inner surface of the towers floors were made of wood pavilion. The number of existing concrete watchtowers is 1474, accounting for 80.4% of the total number of Kaiping Watchtower.
【Classified by the function】
Kaiping watchtowers can be divided into public watchtowers, dwelling watchtowers and Geng watchtowers.
Public watchtowers was built behind the village and funded by part or all of the villagers. Each household can be own one single room for temporary use to avoid bandits or floods. It is closed and simple, with less defensive exterior decoration but strong defensive. Among the three kinds of watchtowers, public watchtowers were earliest. The number of existing public watchtowers is 473, accounting for about 26% of Kaiping watchtowers.
Dwelling watchtowers were owned by wealthy people. This kind of watchtowers has both defensive and residential functions. These watchtowers are tall, special. There are many living facilities. They often become the symbol of the village for the pursuit of architectural beauty. Dwelling watchtowers have the largest number among Kaiping Watchtowers and Villages. The existing dwelling watchtowers total 1149, accounted for about 62% of Kaiping Watchtowers and Villages.
Geng watchtowers are mainly located on the hills and river banks outside the village. These watchtowers are soaring and have a more open view. They are equipped with searchlights and alarm, which make it easy to find banditry in advance and to send warning to the villagers. Geng watchtowers are the largest building among the three types. The number of existing Geng watchtowers is 221, accounting for about 12% of Kaiping Watchtowers.
Functions of Kaiping Watchtowers and Villages
►Kaiping Watchtowers can be used to prevent floods.
►Kaiping Watchtowers can be used to defense bandits. Take Geng Watchtowers as an example. They are equipped with searchlights and alarm, which make it easy to find banditry in advance and to send warning to the villagers. This can help to defense the bandits.
►Kaiping Watchtowers can be used to live. Dwelling watchtowers a good example of combining defensive and residential functions. There are perfect living facilities and he house often are beautiful and livable.