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Building Techniques of Hakka Tulou Houses

Building Techniques of Hakka Tulou Houses

Hakka Tulou houses in Yongding County (Fujian province) are traditional fortified, rammed earth structures, the large outer walls enclosing many more houses within. They are widely distributed throughout Yongding County, mainly in the valley between Ting River and Yongding River. Yongding Tulou structures may be square, round or rectangular, and are mainly found in the Jinfengxi Valley. Some Tulou houses, mostly in the Yongding Valley are also known as “Da Fudi”, or “Five Phoenix Tower” (Wufenglou). There are currently over 20,000 Tulou houses in Yongding County.

A Tulou house embodies the theory of the harmony of man and nature, integrating security, defense, production and living needs, as well as values derived from group living, culture and education. Tulou houses are generally elaborate, with careful planning to make the best use of available natural space and coordinated with the natural environment, whether they are close to mountains, lakes or rivers.  They inherit a long architectural tradition, and have developed elaborate and diverse structures within the outer walls, richly and exquisitely decorated.

Yongding County was officially built in the fourteenth year of the Chenghua Period during the Ming Dynasty, when the Hakka people were prosperous, highly cultured and high ranking. Yongding Hakka people were actively engaged in producing and trading tobacco following the end of the Ming Dynasty, which further increased their prosperity and standing, and thus Yulou houses became ever larger and more elaborate, testament to the spiritual and material base of the  Yongding Hakka.

These days modernization and the new economy mean that the local residents of Yongding no longer build Yulou houses – life has changed. Some Tulou houses have not been repaired for a long time, and there is a break in tradition as far as handing down the architectural techniques is concerned.  Protection of the Hakka Tulou houses currently depends on government concern and support, and public interest.