Thanks to a number of local movies such as “Let the Bullets Fly” (讓子彈飛) that took its diaolou (碉樓) as film set, Zili (自力村) has become the most well known village in Kaiping. The diaolous of Zili have been inscribed in the World Heritage List since 2007. Since then, tourists, mainly local visitors, came to Zili to experience a bygone era. We picked Zili as our first village to visit because of its proximity to Chikan and Kaiping.
From Chikan, we bought the Kaiping Diaolou combined ticket and took the tourist shuttle bus to Zili. Passing through some lily ponds and rice paddies, a boardwalk led us to the entrance plaza of Zili. The village wasn’t big. We were told that Zili could be swamped of tourists during public holidays. It was a Friday afternoon when we were there. Luckily not too many tourists were around. Certain part of Zili seemed like an open air museum, in which fifteen diaolous and old villas (廬) survived to this day. These buildings were constructed in the first half of the 20th century, ranging from 1917 to 1948. There were a few diaolous that we could actually go inside. Inside the diaolou, old housewares, furniture and photos were on display. In every diaolou that we entered, we always climbed up to the roof terrace. From the roof, we could fully admire the scenery of Zili, where spectacular diaolous mushroomed upon a lush green carpet of rice paddies. We spent roughly two hours wandering in Zili before catching the last shuttle bus back to Chikan.
Once entered the village, we arrived at an open square flanked by old brick villas with interesting ornaments typical for traditional rural houses in China.
Architectural ornaments inspired by the West could easily be found in Zili.
Impressive diaolous greeted our arrival beyond a small lily pond.
Footpaths were well maintained for tourism.
Inside a dialou, antique furniture and housewares are on display. A main staircase leads visitors to various levels at the back side of the building. On each level, the stairwell opens to a living room, flanked by smaller bedrooms along the sides.
Old furniture and housewares in one of the study room of a diaolou.
A Western style antique chair against the paint motif on a plaster wall.
Covered terrace on the top floor of a diaolou.
Columns with Classical order was popular back then, though craftsmanship was usually crude, reflecting that the local contractors responsible for the construction had little knowledge on what they were building. Some of them actually based their construction on postcards sent by the owner who lived abroad.
Diaolous and rice paddies viewed from a roof terrace.
Rich details of carved balustrade is still visible today.
Some villagers still live in some parts of Zili, leading a simple rural life.
In some spaces inside a surviving diaolou, paint touch-ups from recent renovations looked unnatural and overdone.
Interior details like stained glass windows and antique clock belong to an era of East meets West.
Old floor tiles in a bedroom of a diaolou.
Interior details of a diaolou.
The sun angle get considerably lower by the time we visited our last diaolou of the day.
Two diaolous leaning toward each other.
The late afternoon sun cast a golden glow to the diaolous, and so as the rice paddies.
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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou
1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China