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Posts tagged “Chikan

VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China

The next morning, we took a local bus to Chikan again for another half day of diaolou tour.  At Chikan, we found out that the tourist shuttle bus going to Majianlong Village was temporarily suspended due to a damaged road bridge.  Across the canal from Chikan Movie Studio, we stepped in a youth hostel to seek for advise.  The staff was very kind and she suggested us to either rent a bike or hire a car/ driver.  We opted for a local driver because of time constraint.  The driver Mr. Kwan turned out to be nice and talkative.  From the construction of diaolou to the standard of living in the region, Kwan offered us good insights into the history and life in Kaiping.  We requested Kwan taking us to two more villages, Majianlong (馬降龍) and Jinjiangli (錦江里) for diaolou visits.

Due to the damage of the road bridge, Kwan took us on a rural journey via a network of small village roads.  After winding through old villages, fish ponds and rice fields, we finally reached one of the parking lots at Majianlong.  Kwan dropped us off at the village entrance and we ventured into Majianlong on our own.  The area of Majianlong was relatively large, with a few villages clustered within a large expanse of bamboo forest.  Through winding footpaths in the shade of bamboo groves, we visited a number of diaolous in Majianlong.  It was a pleasure to wander in the bamboo forest to look for the diaolous and villas.  Mosquitoes were sometimes a nuisance but in general arriving at each diaolou was like a small discovery in the forest.  Some diaolous were actually opened for visitors, with staff at the entrance checking tickets.  We also visited a privately owned diaolou where a small fee was paid to a lady by the door.  Even more so here than in Zili, the interior of some diaolous were magnificently preserved with antique furniture, beautiful floor tiles and interesting wall motifs.  For a few times we climbed up to a diaolou’s roof terrace to appreciate the scenery of distant hills and bamboo forest, in which nostalgic diaolous stood out from a sea of green.

02The high walls and diaolou watchtowers reminded visitors of the violent history of the area when banditry was common.

01One of the many small lanes leading into the village centre.

03Red painted political slogans could be found on walls of many village homes.

04In one of the diaolous we visited, a darkened oil painting was hung in the ground floor living room.

05Old black and white photographs of the owner’s ancestors and families in one of the diaolous.

06A richly articulated stair led to a diaolou’s rooftop patio.

07Like Zili, the diaolous in Majianlong presented an interesting fusion of East and West design styles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA diaolou stood in the midst of a bamboo forest.

DSC_5785Some diaolous in Majianlong were covered in the shade of bamboo for most of the day.

DSC_5777Walking on the footpath under the bamboo shade was pleasant if not the occasional mosquitoes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause of the humidity and lack of maintenance, the exterior walls of many diaolous were not in good shape.

10This kitchen of a diaolou looked untouched for decades.

11Photos of different generations of house owners could be found in many diaolous.

12Bedroom with an overhead storage.

13A splendid villa partially hidden in a bamboo grove.

14Most of the diaolou interior opened to the public had been repainted.

15Because of its height, the main stair of a diaolou was an essential element of the building.

16Classical keystone and column capital were popular back then.

17Splendid balcony of a diaolou.

18Local villager drying hey.

19We encountered a lot more villagers in Majianlong than in Zili.

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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

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DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China

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.

01Once entered the village, we arrived at an open square flanked by old brick villas with interesting ornaments typical for traditional rural houses in China.

1bArchitectural ornaments inspired by the West could easily be found in Zili.

02Impressive diaolous greeted our arrival beyond a small lily pond.

03Footpaths were well maintained for tourism.

04Inside 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.

05Old furniture and housewares in one of the study room of a diaolou.

5aA Western style antique chair against the paint motif on a plaster wall.

06Covered terrace on the top floor of a diaolou.

07Columns 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.

08Diaolous and rice paddies viewed from a roof terrace.

09Rich details of carved balustrade is still visible today.

10Some villagers still live in some parts of Zili, leading a simple rural life.

11In some spaces inside a surviving diaolou, paint touch-ups from recent renovations looked unnatural and overdone.

12Interior details like stained glass windows and antique clock belong to an era of East meets West.

13Old floor tiles in a bedroom of a diaolou.

13aInterior details of a diaolou.

14The sun angle get considerably lower by the time we visited our last diaolou of the day.

15Two diaolous leaning toward each other.

16_01The 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


QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China

Chikan (赤坎) is a historical town in the County of Kaiping.  It is also a convenient hub for visiting the villages of diaolou (碉樓) in the area.  From Kaiping City, we took one of the many local buses to reach Chikan in about half an hour.  Out of the bus window, the well preserved colonnaded buildings or qilou (騎樓) took us by surprise.  The vintage atmosphere of the streets and lanes in Chikan made us imagine that we were going back in time, to the early 20th century.  Streets after streets of qilou buildings, two to three storey high, lined along the main thoroughfare.  Rusty metal doors, broken window panes, darken plaster walls, most of the qilou buildings looked well past their prime.  From the occasional stained glass windows and ornate plaster motifs, Chikan must have seen its splendid moments in the first half of the 20th century.  Despite some were fenced off, on the ground floor of qilou we could still find all sort of local shops serving the remaining population of this historical town.

During our day and a half in Kaiping, we often found ourselves returning to Chikan to switch transportation.  Many local visitors came to Chikan to visit the small but famous movie studio where a number of TV shows and movies were filmed, including Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster.  We did, however, find the streets and lanes flanked by qilou buildings far more interesting and photogenic.  During our first visit, after wandering through its streets and lanes, at the ticket office of Chikan Film Studio we bought a combined ticket that covered some of the most popular villages in the area.  We then hopped on a tourist shuttle bus for Zili Village for our first taste of Kaiping diaolou.

Qilou (騎樓), also known as tong lau (唐樓), was greatly inspired by Western arcade design and traditional Chinese mixed use buildings, exemplifying a hybrid design culture once flourished in urban areas of the Guangdong area.  During the 18th and 19th century, Guangzhou was the only port city in China designated for international trading.  European architectural styles flourished in Guangzhou and spread around the province.  Henceforth, qilou architecture emerged with shops on the ground floor and two to three levels of residences atop as the most common style of Lingnan (嶺南) architecture.  Many qilou buildings in Guangzhou and nearby cities didn’t survive to this day, but Chikan still has some of the best preserved streets of continuous qilou buildings found nowhere else in the province.  The Westernized qilou of Chikan reminded us its heyday when about 80% of the town inhabitants had connections with the Western world.  They either studied or worked abroad during the turning of the 20th century when emigration was common in this part of China.

01There are a number of local buses connecting Kaiping City with the Town of Chikan.

02There are many villages with diaolou and rice paddy fields along the way between Kaiping and Chikan.

01The first sight of the well preserved qilou of Chikan was really impressive.  Like Hong Kong and Taiwan, many shop signage were written in traditional Chinese, suggesting their long history that predated the Communist takeover in 1949.

03Many qilou arcades in Chikan are continuous and hardly changed a bit since early 20th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from the ground floor arcade, continuous balconies were also common in Chikan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVendors were selling dried tangerine skins (陳皮) from Xinhui (新會), fresh eggs and dried fish along the lanes of Chikan.

06The library of the surname Kwan (Guan) was one of the two well known old libraries in town.

8The splendid but abandoned buildings in the town centre revealed Chikan’s affluent past.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the morning, the street market was already quite busy.

10Some qilou arcades were used as semi-outdoor eateries.

11Traces of paint and architectural ornaments were still visible.

11bThe colonnaded arcades could be seen as a communal semi-outdoor space.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhotogenic qilou arcade in morning sun.

12aThe scale of the qilou buildings is quite pedestrian friendly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entire downtown of Chikan is like a movie backdrop.

14The continuous qilou is also a perfect backdrop for photography.

16Many of the back lanes were tranquil and peaceful in the morning.

17Quite a number of abandoned buildings could be found in the back lanes.

18Just a block away from the riverfront tourist area, pedestrians were scarce in the back lanes.

19The riverside qilou is picturesque where most visitors take their postcard-like shoot of Chikan.

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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


TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China

Throughout history, there has been a number of periods when Western influences played a role to enrich the architectural developments in China.  However, despite occasional outside influences and technological refinements from dynasty to dynasty, the evolution of Chinese architecture remained relatively consistent in terms of its structural principles, construction techniques, planning strategies, and overall aesthetics.  This remained so until drastic social changes took place in recent two centuries when first China was forced to open its doors to the West in the 1800s, and second when modern China welcomed the new ideas of urban development, international commerce, and contemporary living in recent two decades.  Only hours of bus ride from Hong Kong, the County of Kaiping and City of Guangzhou are two great places to examine how Western influences came to fuse with local habits in defining Chinese architecture that reflect the unique values of two distinct eras.

Four hours of bus ride connects Hong Kong to Kaiping (開平), a county in the Chinese Province of Guangdong.  We left Hong Kong early in a Friday morning by bus, and arrived in Kaiping at around lunchtime.  We spent a little over a day exploring the Kaiping area, visiting a few of its photogenic villages and diaolous (碉樓) or fortified towers, and the splendid architecture and atmospheric colonnaded streets of the town of Chikan (赤坎鎮).  On Saturday, we took a two-hour bus from Kaiping to Guangzhou, the cosmopolitan provincial capital of Guangdong or Canton (廣州) where we stayed for the second night at its unique Shamian Island (沙面島), a small sandbank island where once controlled by the British and French during the 19th century.  Lastly, we spent much of Sunday in Guangzhou visiting some of its flamboyant architecture built recently.

Before 2007, few other than photography enthusiasts in Hong Kong and Guangdong knew about Kaiping.  After some villages of diaolous were inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Kaiping gradually became a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists.  Since the Ming Dynasty, villagers in Southern Guangdong built fortified towers to safeguard their properties from bandits.  But it wasn’t until the turning of the 20th century when villagers of the area erected all kinds of towers with a mix of architectural styles from all around the world that Kaiping diaolous became such a unique phenomenon found nowhere else in China.  The phenomenon revealed Kaiping’s close connections with the outside world.  Many families in Kaiping had members either studied, worked, or even moved abroad at the turning of the century.  Popular destinations of the exodus included United States, Canada, Australia, and Southeast Asia.  Many of these emigrants settled abroad, but returned to Kaiping from time to time.  Many of them returned with foreign design ideas, postcards of Western mansions, or even architectural drawings to build towers full of personal tastes.  Some would even imported building materials from Hong Kong or abroad for tower construction.  Local contractors, on the other hand, would use their imagination and interpretation to construct the towers based on the limited information provided by the property owners living abroad.  As a result, a unique mixture of Western design and traditional Chinese craftsmanship formed the basis for diaolou’s construction.  At its peak, over 3000 diaolous were erected in Kaiping.  Today, there are about 1800 survived.

Guangzhou or Canton, on the other hand, has always been a vibrant city in China.  It is the third largest city in the country, after Shanghai and Beijing.  Historically Canton was the most important trading hub between China and the outside world.  Since the arrival of Portuguese traders in the 17th century, a romanticized Canton was once the sole source of imagination for the Western world to comprehend the Chinese civilization.  In modern times, Guangzhou gradually regained its former glory in recent decades as China reopened its doors to the world.  With its close proximity to Hong Kong and strategic location at the core of Southern China’s manufacturing heartland, Guangzhou once again came under international spotlight with its new iconic buildings.

02It felt like going back in time when we first arrived at the town of Chikan (赤坎鎮), the transportation hub for most travelers visiting the villages of Kaiping.

03Zili Village (自力村) is dotted with diaolous (碉樓) or fortified towers.  The village has become famous domestically ever since a number Chinese movies and television shows were filmed here.

07Set in the midst of bamboo groves, the diaolous at Majianlong Village (馬降龍村) create another atmospheric scene of unique architecture.

09Jinjiangli Village (錦江里村) has the tallest diaolou in entire Kaiping.

DSC_6105Arriving at Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城) of Guangzhou (廣州) from Kaiping was like going to the future.

10A Sunday morning stroll in Guangzhou’s Shamian Island (沙面島) felt like walking in a relaxing European town.

11Contemporary architecture reshaped the skyline and character of Guangzhou in recent years.

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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