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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

3 things you need to know about Tulou

By Dianshi Yuan

July 30

Aren’t they missile silos? No. Fujian tulou are a type of traditional fortified-earth dwelling, often circular, specific to the Hakka people in Fujian. They are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Aren’t they missile silos? No. Fujian tulou are a type of traditional fortified-earth dwelling, often circular, specific to the Hakka people in Fujian. They are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Fujian tulou (“earth tower”) in Fujian’s mountainous southwest region can be traced back to the 12th century. They were built with rammed earth and housed up to 800 people each, allowing clans to live together as big families.

Architecture of Fujian tulou

A bird's eye view of the Tianluokeng cluster of tulou [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Tan Kaixing]
A bird’s eye view of the Tianluokeng cluster of tulou [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Tan Kaixing]
Constructed as early as 1000 years ago, tulou have three to five floors and a single entrance each. The interior structure is primarily made of wood while the exterior is mostly rammed earth. A small building in the center serves as an ancestral hall. The layout protected families from outside attacks.

The Hakka people

The Hakka people [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liao Zuping]
The Hakka people [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liao Zuping]
The Hakka people are believed to have originated from the area around the Yellow River. Their ancestors left the turbulent Central Plains during Tang dynasty and resettled around southern China. The Fujian tulou are the products of the Hakka people’s hard work and gifted imagination, and were central in creating sophisticated societies in remote, hostile environments. The Hakka language and Hakka mountain ballads are integral parts of their culture.

The eight trigrams

The interior of Tulou [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Hu Jilin]
The interior of Tulou [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Hu Jilin]
The tulou’s construction reflects the bagua, or eight trigrams — an octagonal symbol of paramount importance in Daoism. The trigrams are significant in astrology, medicine and divination, among other things, and are believed by some to explain the crucial details of the whole universe.

 

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