Tulou(土楼), the shiniest star in China Tourism of tomorrow…
When people are talking about travelling to China nowadays, there’s no more domination by Shanghai(上海), Beijing(北京), Hang Zhou(杭州) , Silk Road or Xi An(西安), but Tulou(土楼) or we call it earth houses!
Tulou, earth houses, located at the border between Guang Dong province(广东省) and Fujian province(福建省) have now become the main tourist attraction on the mainland of China! Being named as the UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Penang and Malacca in 2008, it became one of the must-visit sites for all travelers who go to China!
I can say that it is the most superb and extraordinary civilian’s architecture you can find only in Fujian, China!
So, what is so special about Tulou? It’s neither an ancient legendary city nor capital of any dynasties. It’s only a local’s settlement, inhabited since few generations ago. In the mountainous areas in the western part of Fujian, there are numbers of earth buildings, either round or square. The architectural structure, carvings, pillar couplets of these dwelling houses reflect the wisdom and creativeness of the Hakkas(客家).
The origin of these earth houses can be traced back to Tang Dynasties, people migrated to Fujian’s province and decided to settle down there, the shape of the buildings protect them from wild animals and bandits.
There are 2 kinds of earth houses, square and round shaped. Built by clay, sand and according to the locals, brown sugar, the reason why they mixed with sugar is because the walls itself has 2 functions, one is for the protection and the other is the wall itself can be their food supply in case of emergencies like drought.
There are totally about 23000 earth houses around the province. And in 2008, only 46 which are well-preserved were listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This summer, I’ve been to some of them… Let me introduce to you some of the earth houses which I’ve been to.
For those who wish to travel yourself, I think the most suitable ‘base’ for you before exploring those earth houses is Zhang Zhou. A city of Fujian located an hour from Xiamen. After you landed in Xiamen, head straight to Zhang Zhou, and from there, you can decide whether you want to take the tour thru local tour agencies or go on your own.
Summer 09, I went to earth houses during my trip to China. We went to 6 earth houses which located between the border of Guang Dong Province and Fujian Province, Hua Er Lou(花萼楼) and Tian Luo Keng Tulou Qun(田螺坑土楼群). Those earth houses are not located along the road side, in order to visit them, you need to cross few mountains to see them. It’s so hard to imagine that there are residents in the depth of the mountains!
Hua Er Lou…(花萼楼)
Those Hakkas still stay in the earth house, and from the picture, you can see the external view is almost the same like other earth houses, but from the interior view, we can see the difference. It’s a double-storey building , we can see that it was built by ceramics, some of them are built by woods, which you can see it in Tian Luo Keng Tulou Qun. The locals are still practicing their original way of life, the well in the middle of the square is their main water sources, and they will have their daily routine there like washing clothes and etc. They also have their celebration like having the Chinese’s New Year reunion dinner in the square in the middle of the earth house.
According to them, Andy Lau, the Hong Kong artist also came here before to shoot his album.
Tian Luo Keng Tulou Qun…(田螺坑土楼群)
Located at Nan Jing, an hour away from Zhang Zhou, this is the main tourist attractions for those who really wish to visit the earth houses. It consists of 5 earth houses in a group, 1 square shape at the middle surrounded by 4 rounded shape earth houses. It’s a very unique and classic design of earth houses! Don’t waste any opportunity to snap as much photo as you can! It is not easy for you to get to these earth houses, you need to travel deep in the mountain area in order to get this!
And what is different from the previous earth house is the interior of the earth houses here are built by wood, and not by ceramics. The size is bigger as they are 3 storey buildings.
The admission fee for this is 50rmb. For those who travel by your self, an advance research for all the detail is necessary so that you can fully understand and admire the beauty of their arts!