Another terrific spot for the Diaolou architecture near Kaiping in Guangdong province is the Zili Village featuring a collection of fortified village houses. Recognized by UNESCO in 2007 as a heritage site combining eastern and western influences, these structures have been abandoned since mid 20th century, but have now seen a renewal with restoration money pouring in and tourists coming in to see what it’s all about.
KPtours has perhaps the most comprehensive introduction to the wonders of Zili Village :
Zili Villagelies in Tangkou Township, Kaiping City, about 25 kilometres east of downtown Kaiping.It is situated on the west bank of the Zhenhai River, a tributary of the Tanjiang River, in the middle of a flat, irrigated plain. The village consists of three separate sub-village areas. There are 82 village houses, occupying (with their intervening areas of open space, lanes, etc) 83,224 square metres. Of these, the first Heanli has 19 houses, occupying 17,550 square metres, the second Heanli has 50 houses occupying 56,730 square metres, and Yong’anli has 13 houses occupying 8,944 square metres. The present resident population is 179, in 63 households, with 248 villagers currently living overseas, mostly in the U.S.A, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Most of today’s farming households in Zili Village have relatives living overseas. Remittances from abroad are an important economic element in the life of the residential household. The life-style of the villagers is simple, honest, dignified, optimistic, open-minded, and unsophisticated.
The development of Zili Village follows certain important rules relating to its relationship with the water-systems of the district. The systems ensure the protection of the village from flood, and at the same time ensure easy access to and use of the water. The Zhenhai River loops across the front of the village. On all sides, and even in the centre of the village area, ponds have been dug in the middle of the paddy-fields. The villagers keep fish in these ponds, and they rear ducks there, too. In the summer and autumn, these ponds flame with the red and white flowers of the lotus. This is the time when Zili Village is at its most beautiful. Further out from the village, the paddy-fields stretch away in to the distance, providing the village with an entirely natural background of agricultural land. Season after season, as the rice changes colour in its development, so the paddy-fields provide an ever-changing but perpetually elegant frame for the lives of the villagers.
The buildings of the three sub-villages respecting this entirely admirable natural environment are not particularly large or dominant. The village houses are of blue-brick with tiled roofs, mostly of the three-sessions-two-gates single-storey plan. The most outstanding feature of Zili Village is the cluster of Diaolou built behind the village in among the fields, together with a group of western-style villas (note: in the local dialect, these western-style villas are called “Lu”, or “Cottage”).
Of all the places I visited in Kaiping this was by far my favorite, with a real feel of country side life with a large variety of interesting Diaolou village houses to see.
As you can see, the weather was picture perfect, and the skies were just the right mix of blue and clouds.
For most of those towers, you can climb the stairs all the way to the top and the panoramic views on a clear day are just breath-taking.
Going into the village, you can enter the houses and see some of the local life…
If you take one of the tours they’ll explain how every one of those buildings can be made to defend against invaders and how each floor is self-sufficient in case the lower floors are flooded. Robber gangs and typhoons were the major concern at the time.
There’s lots of local food for you to eat over there, very delicious and quite affordable considering it’s a major tourist site. The locals would fight over you sitting down at their table and for some – they’ll prepare your meal infront of you.
If you’re visiting Kaiping, definitely make time to visit here.