Also known as the "Kaiping diaolou", the first towers were built during the early Qing Dynasty, reaching a peak in the 1920s and 1930s, when there were more than three thousand of these structures. Today, approximately 1,833 diaolou remain standing in Kaiping, and approximately 500 in Taishan. Although the diaolou served mainly as protection against forays by bandits, a few of them also served as living quarters.
Kaiping has traditionally been a region of major emigration abroad, and a melting pot of ideas and trends brought back by overseas Chinese. As a result, many diaolou incorporate architectural features from China and from the West.
Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong Province