In 2008, UNESCO dubbed China’s Hakka Houses as an official World Heritage Site, noting the historic, cultural and architectural value of these amazing structures. Constructed from the 12th century up through the 20th, these buildings housed up to 800 people each, a city within a city that provided it’s inhabitants with safety, shelter and community. Also known as Fujian Tulou, there are 20,000 of these structures across the Fujian province of China, a large section of coastal China across the sea from Taiwan. The Fujian Tolou are an important part of this province’s history, as these buildings were designed to protect their inhabitants from roaming bandits and warlords. The typical tulou is a three to five story structure comprised of a thick earthen wall with a single entrance that was protected by a 4″ thick solid wooden door and an iron gate. At the roof level, the tulou were dotted with gun holes to ward off attacking intruders.
Aesthetically, these buildings capture the spirit and beauty of rural China. Visually, these structures are decidedly Chinese in nature, with clay tiled roofs, wooden framing, stone walkways and earthen walls. The very small round building has about 12 to 18 rooms, the small ones have 21 to 28 rooms, the medium ones have about 30 to 40 rooms, the large ones have about 42 to 58 rooms, and the super large round buildings have about 60 to 72 rooms.
Two-third of the round building are 3 stories high and hold roughly 20 families or 100 people. The round earth building is a “group-oriented” residence, usually with one main entrance. Its wall is usually around 1 meter thick. The main entrance door is padded with iron sheet and is locked by 2 horizontal wood bars. The wooden bars retract into the walls in order to open the door. In the event the wood bars are sawed through, the locking mechanism is still intact.
Inside the entrance is a huge central courtyard where all the doors of the rooms and inner windows are open to. At the ground level except the hall and the staircases, the rooms are used as kitchens and dining rooms. The rooms on the second floor are used for storage. The rooms on the 3rd level are used as bedrooms. The rooms in each level are identical. In front of each room, there is an open round hallway and usually there are 4 staircases to move from one level to another. A typical room is about 10-13 square meter in size. The larger round earth building has room around 15 square meters. The windows facing outside tends to be small, with the window size at the outer wall smaller and the window size at the inner wall larger enabling wider surveillance from the inside. It is extremely hard for outsiders to come in through the windows. There is usually no window at the ground level.