China in the New Year (13): the tulou

Our second full day in southern China was cultural.

The overwhelming majority of China’s population (92%) of 1.3 billion, including all my Chinese ‘family’, is ethnically Han, but there are 55 ethnic minorities in the country. Then, within the Han themselves, there are cultural groups, an important one being the Hakka who live predominately in the southern provinces. Those Hakka who are located in a part of the south east of the country are noted for living in a special type of accommodation called a ‘tulou’.

As the relevant Wikipedia page explains:

“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 stories high and housing up to 800 people. 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.”

From Yongding, we drove for an hour in heavy rain to the Fujian Tulou Yongding Scenic Area at Hongkeng village by which time the rain was crashing down in Biblical proportions. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers a wide area as a kind of living folk museum with lots of homes, shops and a river. A local woman guide took us around with the main location being a superb example of a tulou called Zhencheng Lou (“prince of tulou building”) which was constructed in 1912. At one point, we stopped at the home of the guide’s parents for a sip of tea.

A wonderfully atmospheric experience – even in the rain.


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