In the early Qing Dynasty, gangs of bandits marauded their way through Guangdong, leaving the farmers of the region constantly on guard. To help combat the lawless thieves in the region, locals began constructing fortified towers, until the countryside was dotted with over 3,000 of these dialous by the 1920s.
Ranging in height from three to nine stories high, the dialous were massively fortified and served a variety of purposes. Some were simply watchtowers, but others were in fact private, fortified residences of Kaiping’s upper class. The most impressive dialous feature ornate stone work and impressive terraces atop the towers.
During the height of dialou-building in the 19th century, Kaiping was the center of great emigration from China to the West. Thousands of laborers left the region to live and work in North America. When these workers eventually returned, they brought with them architectural styles from the West, and the were highly influential in blending Chinese and Western architecture in early 20th century dialous.
Many of the dialous that are still standing in the region display a mix of these two unique styles. Today, there are around 1,800 dialous still in the region, each rising spectacularly from the rice paddies and marshy fields below.