Hakka Tulou 客家土楼
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Fujian Province

UNESCO'S World Heritage Committee added Hakka Tulou earthen houses to its heritage list in July 2008. The Hakka dwellings are known as Tulou 土楼, literally meaning “mud buildings”. The border where the three provinces of Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangxi meet is littered with tulou’s. Tulou come in different shapes and sizes- there are rectangular, circular, pentagonal (5-sided), imperial style, oval etc. The most common tulou standing today are of rectangular and circular shapes. Most of them are found within the county of Yongding (永定). Yongding County; of which about 360 are circular shaped.

The rectangular tulou is an earlier design whereas the circular ones are newer. Rectangular tulou is direction-oriented and has different lighting and ventilation characteristics often resulting in damp and dark corners. Hence these are slowly replaced by the circular design. Both designs are built around a central courtyard that allows in light and ventilation and to house livestock (some of the circular tulou’s also has an inner circular single level building within the compound). They also have wells and complex drainage systems. The outer walls are normally a meter thick with slits for rifles. The entrance is bolted with heavy door.

A tulou can be as high as six storeys; the ground level is for livestock and kitchen; grains and other food stuff are stored on the second level while the higher floors are for living. A big tulou can accommodate 80 families with 600 inhabitants. The walls are constructed of local materials- mainly mud with straw, reinforced by bamboo strips. The floors are constructed from thick wood panels. Tulou are defensive design- Hakka often settled in remote hills and faced local hostilities and banditries. Once the doors are bolted and with ample stock of grains, tulou is like a fortress and can be completely self-sufficient for long period of time.

The largest circular tulou and also the oldest, built in 1790 is ChengQiLou 承启楼 (in Gaotou township高头乡) has a diameter of 82 meters, the smallest is RuShengLou如升楼 (in HongKengCun 洪坑村) with a diameter of 17 meters. The grandest and generally accepted as the finest example of circular tulou is ZhenChengLou振成楼 (also in HongKengCun 洪坑村). There is only one tulou that is oval shaped, WenChangLou文昌楼 (in TianLuoKhengCun田螺坑村 of Nanjing county南靖县).

During the old days, when the Hakka moved from one place to another, they often faced hostilities from the local communities. They also tend to congregate together in close proximity, relying on each other as they are not familiar with local culture and practices. Therefore wherever they went those of the same family and surname tend to stay close to each other for support. As a result, many of the Hakka villages’ residents share one surname- eg. all the residents of HongKhengCun 洪坑村 has the surname of Li.

Recommendations Related Map: Hakka Tulou
There is entrance fee to most of the well-known tulou’s, ranging from 5 RMB for YuChangLuo 裕昌楼 to a hefty 50 RMB for the HongKhengCun 洪坑村and ChuXi group初溪土楼群 (if one is staying at HongKheng, one need to notify the ticket counter on purchasing the ticket to ensure that they record your ticket number so that it is valid for multiple entries during the duration of your stay). Most of the tulou’s are similar is layout, structure and feel; so visiting a couple of the major ones will be sufficient. However it is also worthwhile to go to a couple of lookouts to have a more panoramic view of the tulou groups and the surrounding- and yes, one have to pay to get to some of these lookouts.

If one planned to just visit a limited number of tulou’s and lookouts, the following are recommended:
· HongKhengCun 洪坑村: entrance is 50 RMB. This is one of the main attractions of this area. The entrance covers entrance to all the tulou’s inside the village which includes:
o FuYuLou福裕楼
o RuShengLou如升楼
o KuiJuLou奎聚楼
o GuangYuLou光裕楼
o ZhenChengLou振成楼

· ChuXi group at XiaYan下洋初溪土楼群: entrance is 50 RMB. Includes entrance to the few tulou’s within the village such as the excellent tulou-museum JiQingLou集庆楼 and a very panoramic lookout.
· TianLuoKhengCun of Nanjing county田螺坑村,南靖县: entrance is 20 RMB which include the lookout.
· HeKheng group lookout 河坑村观景台: the lookout is free while the entrance to the village is 30 RMB. It is sufficient just to visit the lookout without entering the village.

Virtually all the tulou’s in this region, with the exception of two that has been converted to museums, are “alive” i.e. still inhabited by residents. Most of the dwellers are older folks- the younger ones had mainly moved out to newer and modern brick buildings which are cleaner, more comfortable and hygienic. In fact there have been many cases of tulou’s crumbling due to age and neglect. What will happen to these tulou’s when the older folks passed away will be an unknown. The bigger and nicer ones will have a place in tourism while the faith of the others is question marks.

Virtually all the residents around this region are Hakka. There are mainly farmers. As is the norm in rural China, the younger ones tend to be away, working in the major cities. The Hakka are a bunch of super-friendly people.

When to visit
The majority of the tulou’s are concentrated round Yongding county which is in southwestern Fujian, bordering Guangdong. Tulou can be visited anytime of the year though it is probably prettier in spring and autumn.

Getting There
The tulou’s are scattered in the countryside outside of Yongding. Most of them are concentrated around HuKheng town (湖坑镇) now renamed simply as Tulou 土楼. It is approximately 75 kilometers from Yongding county.

To LongYan (龙岩)
Longyan is easily accessed as roads and separate rail lines from Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Xiamen in Fujian converge here to head west to Meizhou in Guangdong. From Longyan there is a local rail link as well as several buses a day to Yongding, 60 kilometers away.

To Yongding (永定)
Yongding itself can be reached by few buses every day from major cities such as Xiamen, Quanzhou and Meizhou.

To Tulou (土楼)
There is a direct bus (12.00pm) every day from Xiamen to Tulou. Otherwise travelers from Xiamen can take the Yongding or LongYan bus but should alight at the junction of Yongding, Tulou and Fushi town (抚市镇). When boarding the bus from Xiamen, just tell the driver or conductor that you want to go to Tulou and like to get off at Fushi (抚市). At the junction catch any passing bus heading to Tulou. The last bus passing through is not later than 5.30pm. After that, one can still get to Tulou easily by hitching a ride on a truck as there are many such trucks ferrying coal from here to Guangdong.

Getting Around
There are no buses to get around from one tulou to another, scattered among the villages. One has to charter a van, together with fellow travelers to get around. Your accommodation hosts should be able to arrange for you. A chartered van for a day cost at least 450 RMB depending on the distance covered.

Another option is to ride a motorbike to get around the villages. This is the main mode of transport of locals and there are normally many motorbikes waiting to take passengers (including foreigners) at the various towns. Hiring a motorbike for a day would cost at least 60 RMB depending on the distance. Traveler is advised to clearly list out the tulou’s/places to visit to the motorist before negotiating the price with them.

There are a few comfortable accommodation choices in both Yongding and LongYan. However there is really no reason to stay in any of these places unless you are stranded or having to be there to catch an early or late transport out.

One can stay in most of the frequently visited and bigger tulou’s. The residents will be happy to have you for a fee; however we do not recommend staying in any of them- unless one is really very keen for an overnight experience- for reasons of comfort and hygiene. It is more comfortable to stay in either HongKheng or ChuXi village. There are a couple of residences within the village that has been converted to guesthouses. Among them, we recommend staying at FuYuLou ChangDi KeZhan福裕楼常棣客栈inside HongKhengCun 洪坑村.

FuYuLou, a China nationally-protected mansion is a 5-storey rectangular tulou built in 1880. It has three separate courtyards and entrances. One of them is converted into a guesthouse with over 20 rooms. It has shared modern toilets, hot showers and free internet. A double room cost 60 RMB and maybe more during peak seasons. The owner of the tulou and guesthouse is a young chap by the name of Li Qinming 李勤明. If one contacts him earlier, he can arrange for free pickups from Yongding or closer towns. He can also advise on places to visit, transport as well as arranging transport. His contact is:

Li Qinming 李勤明
13860221798 (LongYan) or 13459201096 (Xiamen)
Email: tulou@126.com

Introduction 客家- the Hakka (in Cantonese) or Kejia (in Putonghua)
The majority of the Chinese population is Han. Hakka (in Cantonese) or Kejia (in Putonghua) is a unique subgroup of the Han. The name literally means guest family. In the 19th century, Europeans refer to them as Chinese gypsies.

Hakka are believed to have migrated from northern China around the Yangzi basin centuries ago and are progressively forced to move south by war, famine and revolution. Some studies claimed that about seven percent of Chinese traced their roots to a Hakka. Today the majority of the Hakka in China are found in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangxi.

Hakka do not have elaborate and colourful dresses, unlike minorities in China. Theirs is conservative and plain. However, they are well-known for their songs, the so-called “mountain songs”, 山歌. These songs can be heard often in the hills of the Hakka community in the old days. They are mainly songs about their surroundings and/or dialogue as well as songs sung during courtship. Today, the major visible heritage of the Hakka is their cuisine as well as their houses of unique architecture, Tulou.

Hakka cuisine
Among the unique and popular Hakka dishes which can be found easily in the Hakka-dominated areas of China and overseas Hakka communities are:

· Mei Chay Kou Rou (梅菜扣肉): a dish of soya-braised pork belly stewed with preserved vegetables.
· Suan Pan Zi (算盘子): a fry dish of disc-like Suan PanZi (literally means abacus counters) with minced pork, mushroom pieces and so on. SuanPanZi is made from yam and flour and shaped like the counters of abacus.
· Niang Dou Fu (娘豆腐): tofu (beancurds) cut into triangles and stuffed with vegetables and minced pork served either fried or steamed.
· A variety of tasty snacks (小吃) including BaoBin (薄饼), yam-pieces stuffed buns and so on.


Written by CBP in Dec 2007

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