Welcome to the Official site of Fujian Tulou(Yongding)

Presentation

Overview

At the thirty-second World heritage convention, held July 7, 2008, in Quebec, forty-seven entries from forty-one countries were considered for World Heritage status. Fujian’s “earthen buildings” (Hakka houses) were among the twenty-seven that were ultimately selected.

 

Let’s begin by defining “earthen buildings.” The term refers to those large farmhouses where an entire clan lives together—homes particularly noteworthy for their defense function. Since the 1980s, the Fujian Tulou has been variously called "Hakka tulou", "earth dwelling", "round stronghouse" or simply "tulou". Tulou literally translates as earthen structures. Fujian Tulous's literal translation is "Fujian earthen structures", and scholars of Chinese architecture have recently standardized the term Fujian Tulou. With their rammed-earth walls and wooden beams and posts, these large homes-each at least two stories high—closed out the surrounding area. The earthen buildings of southwestern Fujian are villages located where the three provinces of Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong meet. Based on the literal meaning of the Chinese words tu (土; "earth") and lou (樓; "[tall] building"), one may think of the term "tulou" as a generic description of a rammed-earth building. However, this would not be a useful definition, since, as the scholar of China's traditional architecture Huang Hanmin notes, rammed-earth building of one kind or another can be found in virtually all parts of China. Instead, it is preferable to use the definition actually used in Fujian: a tulou is a large building, constructed with load-bearing rammed earth walls, and used as a residence by a community (a group of families). The first part of the definition contrasts tulous with structures that merely use rammed earth around the load-bearing wooden frame; the second part distinguishes tulous from small, single-family residencies.

 

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The earliest extant earthen building was constructed in 769 during the Tang dynasties; quite a few were also constructed during Song and Yuan dynasties. Those built during the Ming dynasty can be seen everywhere. Most, however, date from the late 17th Century to the 1970s. Using the stick definition of earthen buildings, more than three thousand earthen buildings have been formally acknowledged.

 

Parts of Hakka tulou belong to the Fujian Tulou category. While all south Fujian tulous belong to the Fujian Tulou category, they do not belong to "Hakka Tulou". In effect, "Fujian Tulou" is not a synonym for "tulou", but rather a special subgroup of the latter. There are more than 20,000 tulous in Fujian, while there are only around three thousand "Fujian Tulou" located in southwestern region of Fujian province, mostly in the mountainous regions of Yongding County of Longyan City and Nanjing County of Zhangzhou City. Fujian Tulou is however the official name adopted by UNESCO for all dwellings of this type.

 

A tulou is usually a large, enclosed and fortified earth building, most commonly rectangular or circular in configuration, with very thick load-bearing rammed earth walls between three and five storeys high and housing up to 80 families. Smaller interior buildings are often enclosed by these huge peripheral walls which can contain halls, storehouses, wells and living areas, the whole structure resembling a small fortified city.

 

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The fortified outer structures are formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other readily available materials, to form walls up to 6 feet (1.8 m) thick. Branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips are often laid in the wall as additional reinforcement. The result is a well-lit, well-ventilated, windproof and earthquake-proof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer. Tulous usually have only one main gate, guarded by 4–5-inch-thick (100–130 mm) wooden doors reinforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level of these earth buildings has gun holes for defensive purposes.

 

Among them, the “six complexes and four buildings” comprising forty-six earthen buildings chosen for World Culural Heritage status are doubtless the best. They are: Yongding County’s Chuxi complex (including the Jiqing, Yuqing, Shengqi, Huaqing, Gengqing, Xiqing, Fuqing, Gongqing, fangqing and shanqing buildings); the Hongkeng complex (including the Gaungyu, Fuxing, Kuiju, Fuyu, Rusheng, Zhencheng and Qngcheng buildings); the Gaobei complex (comprising the Chenqi, Shize, Kuafu and Wuyun buildings); and the Yanxiang and Zhenfu buildings; Nanjing County’s Tianluokeng complex (including the Buyun, Ruiyun, Hechang, Zhenchang and Wenchang buildings); the Hekeng complex, also in Nanjing county, comprising the Chaoshui, Yangzhao, Yongsheng, Shengqing, Yongrong,Yonggui,Yuchang, Chungui, Dongsheng, Xiaochun, Yongqing, Yuxing and Nanxun buildings. Also in Nanjing County are the Huaiyuan and Hegui buildings. In Hua’an County is Dadi complex (including the Eryi, Nanyang and Dongyang buildings). Yongding and Nanjing share a boundary, as do Nanjing and Hua’an. These three counties administered by Longyan and Zhangzhou municipalities, show rich cultural diversity.

 

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Unlike other housing types around the world with architecture reflecting social hierarchy, Fujian Tulou exhibits its unique characteristic as a model of community housing for equals. All rooms were built the same size with the same grade of material, same exterior decoration, same style of windows and doors, and there was no "penthouse" for "higher echelons"; a small family owned a vertical set from ground floor to "penthouse" floor, while a larger family would own two or three vertical sets.

 

Tulous were usually occupied by one large family clan of several generations; some larger tulou had more than one family clan. Besides the building itself, many facilities such as water wells, ceremonial hall, bathrooms, wash rooms, and weaponry were shared property. Even the surrounding land and farmland, fruit trees etc. were shared. The residents of tulou farmed communally. This continued into the 1960s even during the people's commune period; at that time a tulou was often occupied by one commune production team. Each small family has its own private property, and every family branch enjoys its privacy behind closed doors.

 

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In the old days, the allotment of housing was based on family male branch; each son was counted as one branch. Public duties such as organization of festivals, cleaning of public areas, opening and closing of the main gate, etc., was also assigned to a family branch on a rotational basis.

 

All branches of a family clan shared a single roof, symbolizing unity and protection under a clan; all the family houses face the central ancestral hall, symbolizing worship of ancestry and solidarity of the clan. When a clan grew, the housing expanded radically by adding another outer concentric ring, or by building another tulou close by, in a cluster. Thus, a clan stayed together.

History

How could such mysterious and majestic rammed-earth construction emerge in this area? We need to go back in history to find the answers.

 

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During the turmoil of the Yongjia period [304-312A.D.], the wartime ravages of the late Tang dynasty, and the time when jin soldiers invaded China during the Song dynasty, again and again the Hakka people’s ancestors left the turbulent Central Plains and moved south. Passing through one place after another, the Hakka finally settled down in villages in southwestern Fujian where the mountains are high and the rivers long.

 

Amid the high mountain ranges of southwestern Fujian, the Hakka, who had experienced the vicissitudes of life, found their new home. They built wooden sheds and thatched huts. At last, they could rest and take a breath.

 

With a peaceful environment, fertile land, tenacious ambition, a unified spirit and hard work, the Hakka people gradually flourished.

 

The Chinese people had always prayed to have many descendants. As the population of each branch of Hakka grew rapidly, another worrisome problem surfaced: housing.

 

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Among the indelible memories of their former ancestral land was the large house surrounded by walls, but the past prosperity had vanished long ago. Day and night, they thought about how to live in peace and contentment in this place. Not only did they want the entire clan to have a secure home that would shield them from the elements, but they were even more interested in the entire clan having a home where people could live together and where their spirits would be inspired.

 

Now there is no way of knowing who first invented the earthen buildings. Actually, the earthen buildings weren’t invented by just one person. The earthen buildings were the product of the Hakka people’s passion for history, their gifted imagination and the materials available to them. We can be sure that the first earthen building was rough and not well planned. Indeed, it might even have been laughable. But over the long years, the Hakka kept accumulating experience and making efforts to create these buildings. The rammed-earth technique became better and better and the buildings more and more tasteful. The earthen buildings also were built higher and higher, lager and larger, more and more beautiful—like an ugly duckling that finally turns into a swan.

 

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The Hakka came from a distant place, and also kept going to distant place. Their silhouettes on the road are portraits of the Chinese people’s unceasing struggles for thousands of years. Because the several Hakka clans were constantly moving, the earthen buildings were also introduced into some counties along the southern Fujian coast.

 

The history of the Hakka’s movement south is actually the history of part of the Han people’s movement south. It was the uninterrupted movement of an entire clan. The Hakka culture gradually came to fruition and developed during the migration and after settlement in the south.

 

As the crystallization of the Hakka culture, the earthen buildings did not emerge from nowhere. There were three preconditions for their coming into being: the mighty cohesive strength of a clan; a relatively peaceful living environment; and considerable financial resources.

 

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After moving to the south from the war-torn Central Plains, the Hakka’s forebears now had a tranquil place to live. After several generations of growth and development, the Hakka population rapidly increased. They also amassed quite a lot of wealth. At this time, it was finally possible for them to consider how to build a massive home where the clan members could live together.

 

The Hakka came from the Central Plains. Their skills in the plastic arts and their rammed-earth technique for building the earthen buildings undoubtedly also originated in the Central Plains. From the sites of primitive clan societies in Banpo, Xi’an and Jiangjiazhai, Lintong, we can detect early forms of the earthen buildings’ plastic arts. The sites of Longshan culture and its patrilineal community at the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River also have a large number of circular and square structures. As private ownership came into being and as the clan expanded, a kind of “Mingtang (bright hall)” structure emerged. This was the source of the Chinese traditional residence of “four lines of pillars and three rooms.” It was also the basic phoenix-style structure. It’s still very hard to pin down when the rammed-earth technique first appeared in China; however, in cultural sites five to six thousand years old, we can see rammed-earth platforms. The rammed-earth technique was quite well developed during the Shang dynasty [traditionally dated 1766-1122 B.C.]. The palaces of slave owners, mausoleums, ramparts and bases for platforms were all built using rammed earth. The forts, embankments and some buildings constructed in past dynasties all made great use of rammed-earth technique. In the north Song dynasty, the rammed-earth technique made further advances. At that time, the two most authoritative monographs on construction technique both recorded the use of rammed-earth techniques. From the time of the Ming dynasty, residences built of rammed earth could be found everywhere in China. The earthen buildings were one type of residence that reached the peak of perfection in rammed-earth technology.

 

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Of course, in the process of being handed down, the earth buildings’ plastic arts, as well as the rammed-earth technology, changed. This happens whenever there is cultural diffusion. Anthropologists think, “Cultural changes are a kind of adaptation based on hereditary transmission.” When the Hakka constructed earthen buildings in southwestern Fujian’s mountains region, they were adapting to the natural topography of the locale.

 

Invention

Who Invented Tulou?

 

Now there is no way of knowing who first invented the earthen buildings. Actually, the earthen buildings weren’t invented by just one person. The earthen buildings were the product of the Hakka people’s passion for history, their gifted imagination and the materials available to them. We can be sure that the first earthen building was rough and not well planned. Indeed, it might even have been laughable. But over the long years, the Hakka kept accumulating experience and making efforts to create these buildings. The rammed-earth technique became better and better and the buildings more and more tasteful. The earthen buildings also were built higher and higher, lager and larger, more and more beautiful—like an ugly duckling that finally turns into a swan.

 

tulou

As the crystallization of the Hakka culture, the earthen buildings did not emerge from nowhere. There were three preconditions for their coming into being: the mighty cohesive strength of a clan; a relatively peaceful living environment; and considerable financial resources.

 

After moving to the south from the war-torn Central Plains, the Hakka’s forebears now had a tranquil place to live. After several generations of growth and development, the Hakka population rapidly increased. They also amassed quite a lot of wealth. At this time, it was finally possible for them to consider how to build a massive home where the clan members could live together. It should embody the glory of the clan which was once a prominent one in the Central Plains, and represent the spirit of the entire present clan. How could they build a new home like this?

 

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The first earthen building was built in the valley, and then, large numbers of earthen buildings sprang up like mushrooms after a rain...

 

In pursuit of the large courtyard style of house that flourished among their great ancestors in former days, they constructed the earthen buildings with local materials. Red soil was mixed with strips of bamboo, sand and stone, a watery glutinous rice paste, brown sugar and egg whites, and rammed into place. The Hakka people’s intelligence and wisdom, tradition and culture, energy and beliefs were also rammed into these buildings.

 

The earthen buildings are the Hakka people’s affectionate look back from the high mountains and dense forests of southwestern Fujian to their old home in the Central Plains. The earthen buildings are the Hakka people’s warm embrace of the land where they were dwelling. The earthen buildings are the Hakka people’s home, entrusted with all of their glory and dreams. The earthen buildings are a rare flower of the Hakka people’s culture, weathering the rain and opening in loneliness amid the mountains.

 

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How A Tulou Was Constructed?

 

The earthen buildings were like dandelion seeds, drifting with Hakka and taking root and shooting up wherever they fell…

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From a handful of earth to a section of wall to a building: this was a qualitative change. In the process of the earth being kneaded together and fermenting, the soul of the earth kept being upgraded. The large, high, soil earthen buildings came from the most common, unattractive earth: red soil, rubble and the new earth that came from below the plowed soil.

 

It was from mixing just such ordinary earth—earth that couldn’t be any more ordinary—with its companions, bamboo and wood (fir, miscellaneous wood, and strips of bamboo), sand and stone (cobblestones, river sand, and granite), lime, blue tiles, and local paper pulp, that these marvelous earthen buildings were constructed.

 

In constructing an earthen building, generally the first task was to prepare the wood. In southwestern Fujian, the forests are vast, so obtaining the best firs was a simple matter. After the firs were transported from the mountain, they usually had to be set aside for three years before they were thoroughly dry. If they weren’t thoroughly dried, they would crack and warp and be unusable. Bamboo nails also had to be prepared. Except for the sheet iron that was used for the door knockers, the locks, and reinforcement for the doors, no other metal was used in the entire building. Bamboo nails were used to fix the doors, windows, and floors in place. In the winter, the nails made of hard old bamboo were placed in an iron pot and roasted until they were dry and yellow. Not only were they unusually hard, but they were also almost immortal.

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A Taoist priest was engaged to choose the site for the building and select a propitious date for beginning construction. The owner’s first important task was to prepare the earth for making the rammed wall. The main ingredient, red soil, can be seen everywhere in the southwestern Fujian villages. The rubble and mud were also easy to find. These three kinds of earth could not be used separately; they had to be mixed and allowed to ferment. This was a very important procedure. It was essential if the earthen building was to last for a long time. Constructing homes for themselves, the Hakka wouldn’t have dared to treat this matter lightly. What the Hakka people built were their own houses, which they wanted to pass on in perpetuity to their descendants. They didn’t need to have “quality inspections,” because each person was his own best quality control.

 

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A wall that was rammed with well-fermented earth was unlikely to produce significant cracks or problem with tilting. There was no uniform standard for this process. Different owners and different masons might handle this process in different ways. If the wall was solid, earthquake-proof, and didn’t shrink or crack, then it was acceptable. This flexible, yet clear-cut, standard was much better than the “standards” set by the authorities today.

 

The rammed earth wall was made up of ordinary soil, as well as mature fermented earth, sand, and lime. There were three types of ramming that used a special formula. The main strength of the damp ramming came from sand; lime was next most important; and soil, third. The core of the dry ramming came from soil; around this core was placed a mixture of sand and lime.

 

It is widely known that the special formula called for adding brown sugar, egg whites, and glutinous rice into the mixture of earth. But you mustn’t suppose that these three ingredients were added directly into the mixture. Brown sugar and egg whites could easily attract ants and insects, and this would have jeopardized the stability of the wall. Thus, they could not be added in directly. The Hakka had strict rules for this process: the glutinous rice was first ground into powder, and cold water was mixed with it. Then a large amount of hot water was added, so that the mixture became very runny. Next, brown sugar was added. Finally, this specially created paste was poured into the three types of earth and turned over with a hoe so that it would be thoroughly combined.

 

When the artisans were hired, work on the earthen building could begin, generally, the owner needed to engage only the carpenters’ overseer and the masons’ overseer. They would then bring along their helpers and apprentices. The masons’ team generally needed a certain number of helpers to carry and lift materials and others things. The tools that a master mason needed were quite simple, yet he could do amazing things with them. Before the masons started their work, the carpenters had to make the wooden parts—such as window frame—that would be inserted into the wall. The owner and the two oversees had only a rough design and plan for an earthen building. These had to be worked out together by the owner and the two overseers. Southwestern Fujian villages have all kinds of earthen buildings: we can say that they resulted from good-faith cooperation. There was a ceremony for the ground—breaking and laying the foundation: They burned incense sticks and “hell money,” sacrificed chickens to heaven and earth, placated the spirits, exorcised evil, and purified the ground. The ceremony for starting work on the earthen buildings, and it was filled with thoughts of the ancestors and respect for nature. The Hakka people call the cavity for the earthen building’s foundation the “cavity for the big foot.” The rock foundation underground is called the “big foot.” The foundation above ground is called “the small foot.” After finishing the “small foot,” the mason could relax for a few days waiting for the surface of the “small foot” to dry and harden. Then he could begin to build the rammed earth wall. This was the most important step in constructing an earth building, so the night before starting it, the owner would treat the workers, the Taoist priest, helpers, and relatives to a dinner that included a lot of meat and wine.

 

The first section of the wall had to be rammed with the best earth, and this had to be done in a most earnest manner, if fengshui were not involved, the first section of the wall could have begun in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. After making one circuit of the wall, the direction had to be reversed. Circuit by circuit, the directions continued to rotate. In general, the lower part of the wall is 1.5 to 2 meters think. Perhaps people will say that this is a little too thick. However, according to the Song dynasty book called Construction Standards, the “standard” was said to be: “in building city walls, for every 40feets of height, the wall should be 20 feet thick.” “In building house walls, a three-foot-thick wall can support nine feet of height.” If we take this as the standard, then a rammed earthen wall that was three meters high needed to be one meter thick. Just think about how large a project this would have been and how much space it would have occupied. Most of the three-story earthen buildings are at least 10 meters high. Those that are four or five stories are more than 10 meters high. Thus, the Hakka people’s earthen buildings surpassed the standard of Construction Standards. This makes it clear that the Hakka people’s rammed earth technology had a high degree of professional proficiency—far ahead of others.

 

Even the strongest earthen walls still had unavoidable gaps in the surface, so they had to be repaired before the wall was air-dried. First, the surface of the wall was patted with long boards. This had to be done carefully. Then the wall had to be plastered with soft mud to fill in the cracks between the rammed sections. Small boards were used to pound once more with long boards, when the wall was rammed to the second story; it was time to lay the framework for the floor. The owner would again treat the masons and the helpers to a feast. This was partly to celebrate the smooth progress of the project and partly to give the artisans nutrition and strength. After this point, the work became more and more painstaking. As the wall was built higher, the artisans were critical to the project. The building’s owner was very much aware of this.

 

With the completion of the high wall, everybody was happy. The masons could take a break. The carpenters took over to start building the roof: they laid fir boards down on the roof framing. The fir boards were 10 centimeters wide, 3 centimeters thick, and more than 2 meters long. Three or five boards linked together formed one row for tiles. Then the tiles were added. All of the Hakka earthen buildings used dark tiles; the earthen buildings in southern Fujian region, however, all sued red tiles. With the tiles in place, the work on the exterior was finished. Of course, the owner was happy. To express his joy, he treated the artisans and helpers, his friends and relatives to a banquet. After the exterior was finished, a lot of work still remained. The carpenters had to install the staircases, lay the floor-screens, install doors and windows, install the ceilings, and add wooden decorations to the room. The masons had to dig holes for the doors and windows, build ditches, pave the courtyards and verandas, pave the threshing ground, lay bricks for the pond, and build the kitchens, as well as whitewash the walls inside and out. All of this work needed more time than ramming the wall. It took decades to complete some of the earthen buildings with the most exquisite interior decorations; these included the Chengqi, Shengwu, and Eryi buildings.

 

And so an earthen building was completed.

 

Location

Where is Fujian Tulou?

 

Fujian Tulou(earthen building) is a type of Chinese rural dwellings of the Hakka and Minnan people in the mountainous areas in southwestern Fujian are in villages located where the three provinces of Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong meet. 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. The mountainous terrain is serpentine, and the ridges and peaks are like layers of screen. Scattered all over like stars in the sky, the earthen buildings repose in the mountain valleys. They were mostly built between the 12th and the 20th centuries.

 

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The large and small earthen buildings, of many different styles including circular and square, along with the blue sky and white clouds, the green mountain and water, the luxuriant forests and decorative bamboo, wildflowers and flying birds, the layer upon layer of terraced land, the soughing of the wind in the trees, the small murmuring streams, the continuous smoke from kitchen chimneys: all blend perfectly harmoniously into one entity, imbued with a painterly sense of pastoral poetry.

 

As most Hakka resided in mountains, communal houses made of compacted earth were built to provide protection against bandits and wild animals. The older examples of this style of construction consist of interior buildings enclosed by huge peripheral ones holding hundreds of rooms and dwellers. With all the halls, storehouses, wells and bedrooms inside, the huge tower like building functions almost as a small fortified city. Earthen houses are made of earth, stone, bamboo and wood, all readily available materials. After constructing the walls with rammed earth, branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips were laid in the wall as "bones" to reinforce it. The end result is a well lit, well-ventilated, windproof, quakeproof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer.

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Over twenty thousand of these houses still stand today, ten of which are over 600 years old. The oldest one, “Fu Xing Lou” in Hu Le town, was constructed over 1,200 years ago and is regarded as a “living fossil” of the construction style of central China. The tulou located at the border of Yongding County and Nanjing County is the perfect example of this style of construction and it is here that there are most earthen houses. Most of the nominated properties are located in this area.

 

Outstanding Feature: Representative of a unique style of Chinese communal architecture. Tulou, the residential building mainly made of earth in China, are located in Yongding, Wupin, Shanghang, Nanjing, Pinghe, Huaan and Zhangpu in Fujian Province. Its style, decoration and building techniques are rare to see. With the raw soil as main material, Tulou also mixes fine sand, lime, glutinous rice, brown sugar, bamboo chip, batten, etc. And the building is built by the process of kneading, pounding and pressing. Durable burned tiles are used to cover the roofs. Fujian Tulou is made up of four or five stories, where three or four generations of one family live together.

 

Fujian Tulou not only includes the common round building, but also includes square building shaped building. This kind of building appeared in Song and Yuan Dynasty, became mature during Late Ming Dynasty and Republican period. Both the oldest and youngest Toulou building in Fujian are located in Chuxi, and they are respectively 600 years old and 30 years old.

Why visit ?

The materials used for Hakka architecture can either be brick, stone, or rammed earth, with the latter being most common... The external wall is typically 1 meter in thickness and the entire building could be up to three or four stories in height. Often turrets were also built to extend the range of defensive power and to cover otherwise indefensible points. Battlements were also constructed on the top floor for muskets. The gate was the most vulnerable point and it was usually reinforced with stone and covered with iron. A number of smaller gates followed, in case the outer one was breached. With the exception of a few excessively large forts, Hakka houses usually only had one entrance. The round shape of the walls, which became popular in later stages, added to the defensive value of the fortifications and reduced the firepower of artillery against it. A Hakka fort could withstand a protracted siege, since it was well stocked with grains and had an internal source of water. They often also had their own sophisticated sewage systems.

 

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The architectural style of Hakka forts is largely unique in China and around the world. The typical Chinese house contains a courtyard and other than pagodas, does not often contain any structures higher than two stories. The origins of Hakka architecture have been traced to older forms of fortifications in southern China, as seen in Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms tomb models unearthed in Guangzhou, Guangdong and in Ezhou, Hubei.

 

Fujian Tulou is of high historical, artistic and scientific value because of its long history, wide varieties, large scale and exquisite structure. 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 defending 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.”

 

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Except for the exterior and interior of the earthen buildings, and they have their own daily life. Day in and day out, the days flow silently, but the lives of people in the earthen buildings are vivid and dramatic, ordinary and simple, like the crooning of a mountain ballad, like a scroll being unrolled. In the last few years, quite a lot of reinforced concrete “foreign-style buildings” have appeared beside the earthen buildings, but the people accustomed to living in the earthen buildings still prefer to live in them. They think that “earthen buildings develop their residents.” This is partly because people of each generation have left the earthen buildings either to go overseas or to go to the big cities to become officials or to make a lot of money, but also because they instinctively like the earthen buildings. The earthen buildings are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The earth itself is kind: when it is humid outside it can absorb the moisture, and when it is dry outside it can provide humidity. Thus, the air inside the earthen building is always just right. An old man who has lived in an earthen building for more than 60 years says, “When I lived my son’s western-style building, I had a backache every night. I couldn’t stand this. As soon as I came back to this earthen building, I felt fine again.” Actually, it isn’t only the building itself that the man is accustomed to, but all of the life in the earthen building. Although each person has his own room, there is public and collective space everywhere in the building-the courtyard, the halls, the staircase, the verandas, the threshing ground, and the pond. There are also rice hullers, tilt hammers for hulling rice, winnows, and the like. All of these are indivisible public property. The residents cultivate the same land together and kowtow before the same ancestors. Therefore, they have very close, mutually beneficial relationships, and each person is an “ambassador” for the earthen building. If one of them gets into trouble somewhere else, others will say “people from a certain building are no good.” If someone makes outstanding achievements and gains fame, or is generous and charitable, others will applaud this: “people from a certain building are great.” There are very real, though intangible, obligations and standards for people living in the earthen buildings.

 

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In a sense, a person’s life fused with the earthen building. If a person leaves the earthen building, even if he goes farther and farther away, the earthen building and everything in it will always be in his soul and in his dreams.