December 01, 2010

Hakka Tulou: Roundhouses

Perfectly circular like the face of an overweight child who has visited McDonald's a few too many times, roundhouses are unique forms of housing complexes found in rural areas of Fujian. The most famous and well preserved fortified dwellings are to be found in Yongding County, home of the Hakka people. The dramatically large earthen structures are called tulou, with some rising five stories high and holding upwards of 80 households.

Built from the 12th century onwards, the strongholds provide security for the whole community. The stone foundation, high walls, and granite framed gates made it hard for attackers to enter the compound without incurring heavy casualties. The house within a house concept also exists. Smaller structures are built inside the protective walls of the roundhouse in concentric circles.

There is a central courtyard where gatherings for events like marriages and festivals can take place. Wells, temples, storehouses, and other facilities are also shared by all the inhabitants. Livestock relax on the ground floor, while people go about their daily business. Rickety staircases lead from one level to the next and the wooden floorboards of the corridors creak underfoot.


"Nor need we power or splendour, wide hall or lordly dome; the good, the true, the tender, these form the wealth of home." ~ Sarah J. Hale