Details

Keywords Change this

Round, Tulou

Project timeline

1400 – ?

Type

Residential

Location Change this

Yongding
China

Current state

Original

Also known as Change this

Fujian Tulou

Architect Change this

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Article last edited by Maria Thuroczy on
November 22nd, 2011

Hakka Tulou Change this

Yongding, China
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Description Change this

The Hakka were originally immigrants from northern China who settled in the southern provinces. From the 17th century onwards, population pressures drove them more and more into conflict with their neighbours (called punti in Cantonese).

Features

As rivalry for resources turned to armed warfare, the Hakka began building communal living structures designed to be easily defensible. These houses, sometimes called tulou, were often round in shape and internally divided into many compartments for food storage, living quarters, ancestral temple, armoury etc. The largest houses covered over 40,000 sqm and it is not unusual to find surviving houses of over 10,000 sqm.

The Hakkas who settled in mountainous south western Fujian province in China developed unique architectural buildings called tu lou, literally meaning earthen structures. Because of the undesirable mountainous regions, the Hakkas set up these unique homes to prevent attack from bandits and marauders. The tu lous are either round or square, and were designed as a large fortress and apartment building in one.

Structures typically had only one entranceway and no windows at ground level. Each floor served a different function - the first hosts a well and livestock, the second is for food storage and the third and higher floors contain living spaces. Tu lou can be found mostly in south western Fujian and southern Jiangxi provinces.

Hakka walled villages can be constructed from brick, stone, or rammed earth, with the last being the most common. The external wall is typically 1 metre in thickness and the entire building could be up to three or four stories in height. Often turrets were also built to extend the range of defensive power and to cover otherwise indefensible points. Battlements were also constructed on the top floor for muskets.

The gate was the most vulnerable point and it was usually reinforced with stone and covered with iron. A number of smaller gates followed, in case the outer one was breached.

Why round?

The round shape of the walls, which became popular in later stages, added to the defensive value of the fortifications and reduced the firepower of artillery against it. A Hakka fort could withstand a protracted siege, since it was well stocked with grains and had an internal source of water. They often also had their own sophisticated sewage systems.

Tulou buildings have been inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Sources

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