Guangdong: “Foreign Devils, Warlords and the Biggest Lion in the World”

Guangzhou, the capital of Guandong province, has long been the epicentre of foreign trade within China – trade not only relating to exchange of commodities, but also of new ideas and ways of thinking. A key theme of our new trip down south is Cultural Anthropology, looked at by examining both the influence of foreigners working and residing in the area over the past centuries, as well as the migration patterns of local native Chinese.


South of Guangzhou we will visit Kaiping and its villages in which between 85 to 90 percent of the local population had gone overseas seeking employment around the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century.  As the Kaiping Diaspora reached the US, Europe, Mexico, and Australia, the returning residents took Western ideas and architecture back with them, as well as accumulated wealth.  This was a tumultuous time in Chinese history, coinciding with the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the rise of warlordism.  The returning residents used their newfound wealth to find spouses and build tower-fortresses called “Diaolou” which are not seen anywhere else in the world. The Diaolou are a standing architectural representation of East meets West, and they are currently the only UNESCO world heritage site in Guangdong Province.  We will explore the lives, fortunes, and many twists and turns of the returning locals as we visit the mysterious Diaolou and Kaiping villages by bicycle.


We will extend our migration theme by examining famous Chinese natives from the area who were influenced by the West. We will visit Foshan, the home of great martial artists such as Huang Feihong, Ye Wen (Ip Man) and Bruce Lee. We will train with a local kung fu school as well as learn the ancient art form of Lion Dancing from the current National Lion Dance Champions home of the largest Lion head in the world! Back in Guangzhou, we will explore the pivotal role that Dr Sun Yat-Sen played in the birth of modern China. Educated in Hawaii and embracing Christianity, Dr Sun Yat-Sen returned home to later become known as ‘Father of the Nation’ because of his revolutionary values.


By exploring the dynamics of western influences during the last two centuries in this area, the aim of the “Foreign Devils, Warlords and the Biggest Lion in the World” tour is to help students, through fun activities, understand how essential diverse influences were for the architectural, economical and cultural development of this region. Students will return home with a greater understanding and deeper perspective of the importance of cross-cultural exchanges.