My home is my fortress

My home is my fortress

Categories: Asia | Design and Architecture

Diaolou are multi-storey fortress houses, of which there are a lot in the Chinese county of Kaiping in Guangdong Province. Most of these towers were built in the 20s of the last century, but the oldest belong to the first half of the XVII century, when the ruling Ming dynasty was declining, and numerous gangs of robbers operated in the province. Such a fortress house could safely withstand a sudden assault and a prolonged siege, providing its inhabitants with relative safety. Over time, the attacks of bandits on rich houses became less frequent, but the fashion for diaolou remained.

The construction of diaolou reached a special heyday in the 20-30s of the last century. They were very fond of being built by the Chinese who got rich overseas and returned home. These fortress houses were already built using quite modern technologies from concrete and bricks, and their architectural appearance bizarrely mixed traditional Chinese motifs, Italian Renaissance and medieval European Gothic. At that time, more than 3,000 diaolou were built. These houses served both the role of a fortress and the role of an ordinary residential building.

My home is my fortressToday, more than 1800 diaolou have been preserved in Kaiping, and about half a thousand of them are located in Tiishan. Many of Kaiping's diaolou are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

My home is my fortress

The tallest house-fortress of Kaipin was built in 1921. It is called Ruishi Diaolou, it has 10 floors, and its architecture mixes Byzantine and Roman styles.

My home is my fortress

Kaiping County itself, which is the birthplace of a huge number of Chinese emigrants living in various countries, traditionally belongs to the Yue and Han nationalities. The main occupations of the inhabitants of Kaiping have always been agriculture and fishing, and since the middle of the XVI century, trade began to develop rapidly here.

My home is my fortress

At the beginning of the XIX century, when the gold rush broke out in America, thousands of poor Kaipin farmers abandoned their huts and went overseas to look for gold. Some of them were lucky, and the wealth of the Chinese diaspora in America and other countries grew rapidly.

My home is my fortress

Many of the emigrants, having become rich abroad, returned to their native China. But at home, rich repatriates inevitably attracted the increased attention of bandits, who, as in the Middle Ages, attacked houses, robbed and kidnapped people for ransom. The bochags had no choice but to recall long-standing traditions and build themselves not a European elegant mansion, but a traditional fortress house.

My home is my fortress

In Kaiping, almost 90% of all diaolou were built between 1900 and 1931. Some rich villages consist almost entirely of powerful fortresses.

My home is my fortress

The construction of diaolou stopped due to the depression that broke out in the 30s of the last century, wars and the transformation of China into the People's Republic of China.

My home is my fortress

Today, many of the Diaolou towers are abandoned and empty. The lives of some of the Diaolou continue to be supported by wealthy Chinese immigrants.

Keywords: House | China | Fortress

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