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28 Jun 2014

Fujian Tulou, China

Tulou [ 福建土楼] • 28 JUNE 2014
What is tulou? Its one of the most extraordinary types of house in China. The tulous are rural dwellings found in the southeastern province of Fujian


Constructed from the 12th century right up to the 20th, tulous are typically three to five story structures with a thick earthen wall and a single entrance. They tend to be vast, well-fortified structures, capable of housing up to 800 people.
In fact, they originally functioned as village units offering safety, shelter and a sense of community. In 2008, the tulous were named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the thousands of Tulou buildings, the Zhengcheng Tulou is one of the most famous. Popularly, it is known as "The Prince of the Tulous".


A five-story tulou located at Nangjing county Shuyang district Xiabanliao village, built in 1308.

Fujian Tulou is a property of 46 buildings constructed between the 15th and 20th centuries over 120 km in south-west of Fujian province, inland from the Taiwan Strait. Set amongst rice, tea and tobacco fields the Tulou are earthen houses. Several storeys high, they are built along an inward-looking, circular or square floor plan as housing for up to 800 people each. They were built for defence purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. 


Housing a whole clan, the houses functioned as village units and were known as “a little kingdom for the family” or “bustling small city.” They feature tall fortified mud walls capped by tiled roofs with wide over-hanging eaves. The most elaborate structures date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings were divided vertically between families with each disposing of two or three rooms on each floor. In contrast with their plain exterior, the inside of the tulou were built for comfort and were often highly decorated. 


They are inscribed as exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization, and, in terms of their harmonious relationship with their environment, an outstanding example of human settlement.


A Tulou is a multistory earth-built structure designed for both community living and defensive purposes. The Tulous were built by the Hakka people in southern Fujian, mostly between the 12th and the 20th centuries. Although the Hakka people obviously appreciate the benefits of their home comforts and the communal way of life, they never confine themselves to the area. The fact is the Hakka people are great travellers. Watch Video


To clan members who lived together, a loving attitude, a concern for the needs of others, care and mutual help were essential. Ancestral halls are very important in Chinese culture, as a way to trace roots and origin, for people to bear in mind. Respecting the ancestors and older generations is the worthy tradition of Hakka people. So the ancestral hall is the center of the Tulou. Everything takes place around them. Watch Video :


Nicknamed "the king of tulou", of Gaobei Tulou cluster at Gaotou village of Yongding County

The Tulou was built by Hakka people for whom they serve the due purpose of giving them some more to live and protecting them. How was Tulou building´s material chosen? And what was the life like inside them? Yongding is a mountain place with very little water. So where did local Hakka people get money they needed to build Tulou? Watch Video :


The tulou’s are scattered in the countryside outside of Yongding. Most of them are concentrated around HuKheng town (湖坑镇) now renamed simply as Tulou 土楼. It is approximately 75 kilometers from Yongding county.
To LongYan (龙岩)
Longyan is easily accessed as roads and separate rail lines from Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Xiamen in Fujian converge here to head west to Meizhou in Guangdong. From Longyan there is a local rail link as well as several buses a day to Yongding, 60 kilometers away.
To Yongding (永定)
Yongding itself can be reached by few buses every day from major cities such as Xiamen, Quanzhou and Meizhou.
To Tulou (土楼)
There is a direct bus (12.00pm) every day from Xiamen to Tulou. Otherwise travelers from Xiamen can take the Yongding or LongYan bus but should alight at the junction of Yongding, Tulou and Fushi town (抚市镇). When boarding the bus from Xiamen, just tell the driver or conductor that you want to go to Tulou and like to get off at Fushi (抚市). At the junction catch any passing bus heading to Tulou. The last bus passing through is not later than 5.30pm. After that, one can still get to Tulou easily by hitching a ride on a truck as there are many such trucks ferrying coal from here to Guangdong.

There are no buses to get around from one tulou to another, scattered among the villages. One has to charter a van, together with fellow travelers to get around. Your accommodation hosts should be able to arrange for you. A chartered van for a day cost at least 450 RMB depending on the distance covered.
Another option is to ride a motorbike to get around the villages. This is the main mode of transport of locals and there are normally many motorbikes waiting to take passengers (including foreigners) at the various towns. Hiring a motorbike for a day would cost at least 60 RMB depending on the distance. Traveler is advised to clearly list out the tulou’s/places to visit to the motorist before negotiating the price with them.
Photos credited to Kit

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