Tuesday, February 23, 2010

China: Hakka Earth Dwellings(Tulou) - 客家土楼

Fujian Tulou ( 福建土楼) is "the most extraordinary type of Chinese rural dwellings" of the Hakka and others in the mountainous areas in southwestern Fujian, China. They are mostly built between the 12th to the 20th centuries.

A tulou (土楼)is literally means earth building. It is usually a large, enclosed and fortified earth building, rectangular or circular in configuration, with very thick load-bearing rammed earth walls between three and five stories 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.

The fortified outer structures are formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other readily-available materials, to form walls up to six feet (≈2m) thick. Branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips are often laid in the wall as additional reinforcement. The end 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 wooden doors reinforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level of these earth buildings has gun holes for defensive purposes.

2008 UNESCO Listing World Heritage Site
A total of 46 Fujian Tulou sites, including Chuxi tulou cluster(初溪土楼群), Tianluokeng tulou cluster(田螺坑土楼群), Hekeng tulou cluster(河坑土楼群), Gaobei tulou cluster(高北土楼群), Dadi tulou cluster(大地土楼群), Hongkeng tulou cluster(洪坑土楼群), Yangxian lou(衍香楼), Huiyuan lou(怀远楼), Zhengfu lou(振福楼) and Hegui lou(和贵楼), have been inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, as "exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization [in a] harmonious relationship with their environment".

Not all tulou are Hakka Tulou, there are many Mingnan tolou near Changzhou(漳州市), Fujian Province, which are not owned by Hakka speaking people(客家人), but by mingnan speaking people(闽南人). So the Fujian tulou including both Hakka tulou(客家土楼)and Mingnan tulou(闽南土楼). 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. The Fujian Tulou is defined as: "A large multi storey building in southeast Fujian mountainous region for large community living and defense, built with weight bearing rammed earth wall and wood frame structure."

Related articles

1. Fujian Tulou, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fujian_Tulou

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