Kaiping Diaolous: No bandits allowed.

On our trip to Kaiping last week we took a tour a cluster of small villages, named the MaJianglong (马降龙)cluster.

Kaiping is well-known in China for the wave of emigrants that exited China in the early 20th century. By the 1920’s and 1930’s, many of the villagers had fled to the appeals of America, Cananda, and Australia for a better life. It is now jokingly- but accurately- said that there are more villagers from Kaiping living outside of the city than in the city itself. In the early turn of the century, those that traveled to the West for hopes of a better life continued to support their families back at home- their meager salaries in the Western world translated into monthly and yearly funds in the villages.

As word spread of these villagers slowly accumulating loot from their Western family members, bandit attacks become more common and more threatening in many villages. As a result, villagers came together to build concrete structures to protect themselves from these attacks, called Diaolou (碉楼), which directly translates into rock-cave housing.

Today it’s a Unesco World Heritage site, and tourists come to stroll around the stone buildings, bike along the Greenway, and pay 10RMB to walk up a diaolou structure. It’s a pretty neat site to see the village, although I much preferred biking around than the 10rmb entrance fee up what seemed like a dilapidated old army barrack.