Tulou, Circular Houses and Thick Walls of the Hakka People

Tulou, An Uncommon Circular Traditional Communal Residence

Tulou is a circular or oval architectural design of residences, known as Hakka Tulou or ‘earthen fortresses’ in the Fujian Province of southeastern China.

These structures are primarily associated with the Hakka people, an ethnic group known for their migratory history and communal way of life.

Additionally, the area’s geography is characterized by lush green hills, rice paddies, winding rivers, and dense subtropical forests.

Situated in the mountainous areas of Fujian, these earthen fortresses are often nestled within valleys or perched atop hills.

Moreover, the buildings are not only remarkable for their architectural ingenuity but also for their historical and cultural significance.

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The Unique Architectures Of Tulou

Tulou are often characterized by their unique architectural features, such as a circular layout, earth and wood construction, multi-story structures, and intricate courtyards.

Most structures are round or oval, with the internal space organized around a central courtyard. Furthermore, the circular design promotes unity and a sense of community among its residents.

The buildings are built with earth, stone, and bamboo, held together by a technique without nails or modern materials. Therefore, the earthen walls are incredibly durable, standing the test of time for centuries.

Tulou often rise several stories high, housing residents on upper levels and hosting communal activities on the ground floor. In addition, the courtyards feature lovely gardens, fishponds, and carvings, creating serene spaces for residents.

The Culture Of Hakka People And Their Population

Tulou exemplify the communal way of life embraced by the Hakka people, beyond mere architectural marvels.

As for the population, the precise number of residents living within the complexes varies from one to another.

Typically composed of Hakka families who have lived there for generations, some complexes are small, housing a few dozen residents, while others are large, accommodating hundreds.

This population in each Tulou mirrors the Hakka people’s commitment to preserving their cultural heritage and traditional lifestyle.

Several Tulou Designated As UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Tulou complexes span Fujian, boasting over 20,000 earthen fortresses across multiple counties, covering a vast area.

Notably, the prominent ones include 46 buildings in Fujian Province and the Kaiping Diaolou and Villages in Guangdong.

Each complex consists of multiple circular or oval buildings, usually surrounded by agricultural fields, gardens, and scenic vistas. Furthermore, it also features a combination of Tulou and watchtowers built by overseas Chinese.

In recognition of their historical and cultural significance, several Tulou complexes have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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A Glimpse Into Tulou’s History

Tulou translates to “earthen buildings” in Mandarin, and these structures are an integral part of the Hakka culture, one of China’s minority groups.

In the 17th century, the Hakka people migrated from central China to Fujian’s mountainous regions.

Seeking refuge from political turmoil and warfare, the Hakka constructed tulou as defensive fortresses, homes, and communal spaces.

The Hakka constructed Tulou as defensive fortresses, homes, and communal spaces. These fortified homes served a dual purpose as living quarters and defense fortifications.

Thick walls and circular designs protected against bandit attacks, instilling security and unity in residents during turmoil.