Tulou: earth buildings in Fujian

One of the pictures I posted the other day for the Animal Lover post reminded me of the time we visited the tulou (土楼). Back in Chinese New Year 2013, after having sworn many times that I would not travel within China during the Chinese holidays ever again, we went to Xiamen. Xiamen is a very nice city, but I guess I don’t have to repeat that travelling during Chinese holidays is a BAD idea. Anyway. After strolling around Xiamen and Gulangyu for a couple of days, we decided to go see the tulou, which are some very special buildings. Wikipedia defines them as “a large building, constructed with load-bearing rammed earth walls, and used as a residence by a community”. So how do they look like? Something like this. The most famous ones are round, but they can also be squared:

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There are several tulou villages but we only visited one which is known as the Tianluokeng cluster (田螺坑土楼群). It is quite far from Xiamen, around 2.5 hours by car. We hired a taxi for the day to get there. The car has to be parked in the entrance of the area, and then you have to buy a ticket (of course) which also includes the bus to get to the different villages. I think the ticket was something like 120 RMB but I am not completely sure. Expensive, but totally worth it. Our first stop was in the village pictured above. Chinese people, who are always thinking about food, say that this cluster looks like four dishes and a soup in the middle.

These tulous were pretty new, as they were all built during the 20th century. There are still people living there, but I guess in these famous ones all the families are working in the tourism industry, catering to the visitors. You can have lunch inside the tulou, and in some of them you can even spend the night.

Facade...

Facade…

 

... and the interior.

… and interior.

We visited that tulou above right before lunchtime, so its inhabitants were busy killing chickens and setting tables for the visitors. They also sold small souvenirs and snacks. Their living quarters are in the second and third floor.

These poor ducks look like they were run over by a steam roller.

These poor ducks look like they were run over by a steam roller.

 

The second stop was in another village, not as idyllic as the first one because it was not in the middle of the mountains, but still beautiful. In this second village we saw some slogans from several decades ago:

Long live Chairman Mao, says on top of the door.

Long live Chairman Mao, says on top of the door.

 

This village was also the home of Yuchang Lou, one of the oldest and biggest tulous in China. It was built in the 14th century!

This is some badass tulou.

This is some badass tulou.

Yuchang Lou even has a temple in the middle. And check the upper floors, they are all crooked!

Yuchang Lou even has a temple in the middle. And check the upper floors, they are all crooked!

 

The third stop/village was not as interesting as everything looked new. But it was a cute, quiet village anyway. Well, if there had been less tourists it would have been more charming, of course, but all in all it was not that crowded. We had lunch there.

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The door of a newer tulou.

The door of a newer tulou.

If you are planning to go to Fujian, the tulous are a very nice visit. I would even recommend staying in one of them for the night, but I am not sure about the conditions inside. If you are feeling adventurous, go for it! There are many tulou villages in the southeastern part of the province. I’m afraid they are not terribly well connected by public transportation, so the best idea would be to go by car. In Xiamen you can find organized tours, a private taxi driver who agrees to take you, or even rent a car and drive yourself if you have a Chinese license and are not afraid of getting lost in the mountains!

Fun fact: our taxi driver’s name was Hu Zhi Ming, which is the Chinese pinyin transliteration of the name of a certain Vietnamese guy that might sound familiar …

Ho Chi Mihn drove us there!

Ho Chi Mihn drove us there!

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