A rural success story

By Yang Yang | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-05 08:15
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Visitors to the Jiangmen Kaiping Avant-Garde Bookshop. [PHOTO BY YANG YANG/CHINA DAILY]

About 20 years ago, Li worked with Zhang Boxiong, now a professor with Wuyi University in Guangdong specializing in the study of the hometown culture of Chinese emigrants, publishing a collection of photos of diaolou and other old houses in Kaiping.

Diaolou refers to the multistory defensive village houses in Kaiping, which fused Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms in a complex and flamboyant way. They were mostly built in the early 20th century with money and ideas sent back by locals who had emigrated to North America and Southeast Asia.

In June 2007, UNESCO inscribed Kaiping Diaolou and Villages to its list of World Heritage sites as they "reflect the significant role of emigrant Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries".

Li showed Qian around the villages in Kaiping, such as Zili and Majianglong, hoping to find a house that might harbor the potential to become a bookstore.

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