Hakka Earthen Building Highlights

Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster

One of the better known Fujian Tulou clusters. It is located in Fujian province, Zhangzhou city, Nanjing County, huyang Township, Tian Luo Keng Village (literally "Snail Pit" Village) in southern China.

The cluster consists of a square earth building at the center of a quincunx, surrounded by four round earth buildings (or more exactly, 3 round earth buildings and one oval shape earth building), figuratively nicknamed “Si cai yi tang” (four dishes with a soup).

A tulou (lit. "earth building") is a unique architecture found only in the mountainous areas bordering Fujian and Guangdong in southern China. The "Earth building" is an enclosed buildings, usually square or circular in shape, with a very thick earth wall (up to 6 feet thick) and wooden skeletons, from three to five storeies high, housing up to 80 families. These earth buildings have only one entrance, guarded by 4–5-inch-thick (100–130 mm) wooden doors re-enforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level of these earth building have gun holes for defense against bandits. In spite of the earth wall, some of them are more than 700 years old, surviving thru centuries of natural elements, including earthquakes, yet still standing solid. There are more than 35,000 earth buildings to be found in southern China, among them a little over 3,000 have being classified as Fujian Tulou.

The five earth buildings at the Snail Pit village are:

  • The square earth building named Buyun building (Reaching the Cloud building) at the center of the quincunx. It was the first earth building at this site, built in 1796. It is three storeys high, each storey has 26 rooms, four sets of stairs, and a circular corridor in front of the rooms. The Buyun building was burnt down by bandits in 1936, and rebuilt in 1953 according to the original shape.
  • The Hechang building, a three storey high round earth building,
  • Zhenchang building, three story, round shape, 26 rooms per storey, built in 1930
  • Ruiyun building, built in 1936,
  • The last Wenchang building of 1966, 3 storeies, 32 rooms per storey.

The cluster is located about four hours drive by motor coach or taxi from Xiamen, through winding and bumpy narrow mountain roads.

Changjian Ancient Village

Changjiao Ancient Village is a place where South Min language family and Hakka language blend into each other. It is also a quiet, ancient and miraculous place. The ancient village is surrounded by mountains, and covers an area of about 25 square kilometers. Changjiao Stream twists through the village and runs toward the mountains far away, leaving a mass of green grass and blue water. The Chinese movie Yun Shui Yao telling a heart-shaking love story was shot here. Xiluo, he hometown of Chen Qiushui who is the hot-blooded youngster in the movie, is located at Changjiao Village, Meilin Town, Nanjing County.

As soon as you step into Changjiao Village, the long ancient paths, hundred-year old banyan, marvelous Tulou (earth building) and the delicately beautiful mountains and water all leave you a peaceful and detached impression. In the village, beside the bank of the stream or under the banyan, ancient paths made of cobblestones cross and shuttle back and forth, silence being imbued with mystery and boundless feelings. Although some of them are bumpy and some even have been ignored and forgotten, smooth stones still bear the joys, sorrows, dreams and desires of one generation after another. When you wander in the spectacular Tulou, the rural scenery, with winding path leading to seclusions, make you command a panoramic view which is brimming with interest. On the both side of the stream, the banyan cluster consisting of 12 hundred-year old banyan presents a splendid sight. Old banyans have twisted roots, gnarled branches and luxuriant foliage. They are still full of vigor and vitality after experiencing the ups and downs of life. Though the roots of these old banyans spread everywhere, they have no fibrous root. So they are assumed to be the rare kind of small-leaf banyan. When you sit under the old banyan to listen to the murmuring stream, enjoy the gently breeze and watch the simple and relaxed villagers walking by, feelings of being close to native soil and returning to nature well up spontaneously.

Dadi Tulou Cluster

Dadi Tulou Cluster, one of the tulou clusters inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, is an important component of Fujian tulous.

Situated in Dadi Village, Xiandu Town, Hua'an County of Fujian Province, 80 kilometers away from the seat of Zhangzhou Municipal Government, 147 kilometers away from Xiamen City, the Dadi Tulou cluster consists of two major historic sites under national protection: Eryi Lou and Nanyang Lou, and one major historic site under Hua'an county’s protection: Dongyang Lou, which are large-scale residences built by the Family of Jiang’s during the reign of "Flourishing Ages of Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty", and it has become a great wonder in Chinese rammed earth architecture.

The Tulou Cluster is encircled by Mt. Centipede, Mt. Dajinmian, Mt. Tiger, Mt. Tortoise and Mt. Lion. The selection of site shows astonishing geometric graphics. The layout of the cluster is the unique feature, its defensive system is of unique creativity, and the structure differs from others, the ornaments inside are exquisite and magnificent.

Furthermore, the pleasant living environment of green mountains and clean water, rich humane attractions make the overall layout of the Dadi Tulou Cluster follows through the Chinese philosophy of human as the most fundamental, and the unity of human and nature.

With the main building Eryi Lou, which is dubbed the King of Round Tulou and the Treasure of Civilian Residence, Dadi Tulou Cluster keeps the rammed earth architectural technique of Shang Dynasty more than three thousand years ago. It is not only a mythical architectural pattern unique in the world, but also a presentation of visible, touchable and sensible traditional Chinese culture.

Chengqi Lou Tulou Cluster

Located in Gaobei Village of Gaotou Town, Yongding County and built from the reign of Emperor Chongzhen (Zhu Youjian) of Ming Dynasty to that of Emperor Kangxi (Aisin Giorro Xuanye) of Qing Dynasty, Chengqilou is the biggest earth building featured with peculiar structure and strong flavor of rural life as well as old-fashioned and antique flavor. It belongs to the Gaobei Village Tulou Cluster, which has tens of earth buildings.

Of all the circular dwellings with internal open corridors, the most famous is the Chengqilou, which used to accommodate 80 families with a total of more than 600 people in its prosperous days. The most significant feature of this huge collective dwelling is that all residents are equal in sharing the living spaces.

The whole building was built with a large central hall and three circles. Among them, the outer circle has four layers with the height of 16.4 meters altogether, and each layer possesses 72 rooms; the second circle consists of two layers, each of which comprises 40 rooms; the third circle includes one layer with 32 rooms; the center of the building is the ancestor's hall. All in all, the building, with a 73-meter diameter and a 229.34-meter corridor, owns a total of 400 rooms as well as 3 gates and 2 wells. Chengqilou is very breathtaking because of its tall, rugged and grand architectural style as well as graceful formative arts of the courtyard. The models of Chengqilou are available in the "Window on China" (Taiwan, China) and "Shenzhen Splendid China". In 1981, it was taken in the dictionary of "the Sights of China" and claims to be "Tulou King" to present extraordinary splendor together with other places of interest such as Beijing Temple of Heaven and Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, etc.

Chuxi Tulou Cluster

Chuxi Tulou Cluster is located at Chuxi Village, Xiayang Town, Yongding County of Fujian Province. It includes five round Tulou and 31 square-shaped Tulou which are situated at the foot of a hill and beside a stream. They extend in picturesque disorder and have great historical value, scientific value and artistic value. In February 1999, it was placed on the cultural relics protection unit of the county and declared as one of the Yongding Hakka Tulou in World Heritage List.

Taking an over look on the observation deck, you can have a panoramic view of Chuxi Tulou Cluster. There are terraces piling on terraces on the southern sidehill. Three huge round Tulou lie in a line and connect two square-shaped Tulou on the both side. They are so magnificant and splendid that foreign friends mistake them for UFO or missile base. All building names share the common word "Qing", meaning "celebration" (such as Jiqinglu and Shengqinglu), which reflects the hospitable nature of the Hakka people.

Shengqinglou is a square-shaped Tulou folk house which faces south and was built in 1799. It covers an area of 1,482 square meters and is a civil structure composing of two square-shaped Tulou.

Shanqinglou is a round Tulou folk house which faces south and was built in 1979. It covers an area of 630 square meters and has three floors. The porch at the bottom floor and the patio are decorated with square-shaped granite; outer wall is painted with lime. All these make it have a distinctive style.

Gengqinglou is a round Tulou folk house which was built in 1840 and faces south. It covers an area of 660 square meters and has three floors.

Gongqinglou is hexagon-shaped Tulou folk house which was built in 1949 and faces south. It is low in the front and high in the back. There are four corners in the front and two corners in the back. There are 152 halls and rooms and only one entrance.

Theresa Duthie, New Castle, UK:

Had a great time the other day on the trip to the Hakka Tulous. It was something really different from what we had already seen in China and we really enjoyed the slice of life we were allowed to see. The guide was really good, giving me and my boyfriend good bits of info on the history and quirks of the Tulous. It felt like something straight out of National Geographic!