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Journeys in time 2010-5-27 Secrets of the Fujian Tulou Part 2- Mighty fortresses

05-27-2010 18:11 BJT


Starting in the 4th century, for more than 1000 years the Han Chinese living in the Central Plains region undertook five major migrations. In the face of constant warfare and upheaval, they moved south in search of peace and wealth. In the 13th century, they began settling in the hills and mountains of Fujian, where they formed communities that became known as Hakka. To defend themselves against marauding bandits and the often-hostile locals, they built huge, defensive residences that became known as Tulous. In them, large groups of people, generally belonging to the same clan, could live in safety. 

Seen from the outside, a tulou is like a castle. The structure was solid enough to resist attacks from the outside. The walls were formed of rammed mud and clay prepared with a special formula that ensured its longevity. The buildings, by standing the test of time and surviving numerous natural disasters, have shown that they were more than capable of serving the purpose for which they were originally constructed.

Building a tulou, with its enormous size, was highly labour-intensive, and required huge quantities of materials. The fortified outer structure was formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other locally-available materials. The end result is a well-lit, well-ventilated, windproof, quakeproof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer.

The tulous, unlike other housing types of the same period worldwide, which tended to reflect the prevailing social hierarchy, are a model of community housing for equals. All the rooms are the same size and use the same standard of materials, the same decoration, and the same style of windows and doors. There is no penthouse for the senior members of the community; a family unit owned a vertical set of rooms from the ground floor up to the top floor, while a larger family would own two or three vertical sets. In this way, the tulous came to reflect a sophisticated social structure in a remote and hostile environment. In the next edition of our programme, we’ll visit the mountainous region of Yongding, where there are 20,000 tulous, to discover how their design was influenced by the eight trigrams.

Editor:James |Source: CNTV.CN

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