The Story Behind The Picture

The picture at the top of this page (EDIT: I changed the picture, but now you can see it above) may give the impression of me being a nomadic, fearless wanderer travelling the world with just a camera and a sense of adventure (or at least, that’s what I like to imagine). However, the reality is a little different.

I was kicking my heels in Guangdong waiting for the ferocious weather in central China to clear so I could take the train north. While I waited, I caught a bus to Kaiping, a fairly nondescript city that in typical Chinese fashion is both ‘small’ and bigger than 95% of British cities. I had read about the Kaiping Diaolou, watchtowers built in the Qing dynasty by returning overseas Chinese as fortresses to protect their wealth from bandits.

I’d arrived out of season and there was no public transport to the diaolou. Outside the bus station I was mobbed by taxi drivers who tried to charge me extortionate prices, so I left the melee and found a guy with a motorbike who agreed to take me out to the countryside.

It was my first time on a motorbike and, wearing an ill-fitting plastic helmet and zooming along pot-holed roads, I regretted not paying more for a taxi. I gritted my teeth and held on so tight that my hands hurt. But it was exhilarating and the diaolou were stunning. On our return to the city, the situation turned sour when he reneged on our agreed price and charged me double. A crowd formed and things started to get a little heated so I paid up (it wasn’t worth arguing over the equivalent of £4) and headed on to Macau.

I was reminded of the Kaiping houses a year or so later when I saw a show by Li Yimo at Beijing’s 798.


One response to “The Story Behind The Picture

  1. there is a poem for kaiping diaobiao




    Kaiping diaolou
    By Allison

    They are the Western beauty in my eyes .
    standing in Kaiping banana plantations and rice fields.
    beautiful, tall ,straight and proud,
    Watching the passing crowd, and smiling gently.
    They are the people who have been far away from home.
    Inadvertently left to future generations to miss..
    Brick by brick, stone by stone, along the waterway batches of home

    They settled down in the ridges of Kaiping.
    Each of them has a legendary life experience.
    You can turn on the yellow old pages of the traditional thread binding book, try to figure out the their history,
    But you could never know the secrets hidden in them.
    the most reverie of that page has long been torn off by a person who crazy about them .
    Years would only add beauty to their ancient rhyme style,
    the Mottled wall, expiring the aging fragrance of the incense.
    the grass in front of the diaolou, the dill rattan behinds the floor.
    they are like a flying skirt dancing in the bright early autumn of the south of the five ridges.
    That the drama has already returned home gloriously in the end,
    Bandits return home to the farm folk of fish ponds.
    They also frequently take a bow under the burning sunset ,
    How much desire has the evening been lighted up by the beauty of them . .