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Tulou – Castle for civilians in Fujian, China

by Chloe

You might think that a huge castle is just for high social classes, but when traveling to Fujian – A land on the southeastern coast of China, it will blow up your mind with “little kingdoms” land castles.

Map of Fujian, China
Fujian location

If you travel to Fujian, China you should not ignore the solid earth castles like these impregnable forts.
These massive earthen castles are also known by another name as the Fujian Earth Castle or Tulou. This is a clay house built by the Hakka and other ethnic groups in the southeastern mountainous region of Fujian province, China.

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A tulou in Huiyuan

Earthen architecture is also known as Hakka architecture, built by the Hakka people. With the main purpose of being the protective “fortress”, the Tulou had only one door and no windows on the ground floor. The gate of the earth floor is often the most important point, often reinforced with stone and iron.

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Tulou was built to protect the clan and against armed bandits in southern China from the twelfth century to the nineteenth century.

The earth walls are made by compressing the soil with a mixture of stone, bamboo, etc., can be up to 2m thick, the windows are made of wood about 5-6cm thick with the outer layer reinforced with iron panels. These earth castles are as solid as the impenetrable fortresses. The evidence is that in 1934, a group of peasant rebels took a long territory to defend against army attacks. 19 artillery shells fired into the earth for a long time, but only produced a small dent.

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Tianluokeng tulou cluster – “King of Tulou” consists of 384 rooms and was completed in 1708

A tulou is usually large, with 3-5 floors with the top floor covered with tiles. Inside the long ground is divided into many rooms, food storage room, weapon compartment, living room, worship room … In addition, the top floor also has a small attic to observe, design holes to shoot from the inside out.

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The inside of a Tulou

With large earthenware that can hold up to 800 people or is a living place for 80 families. In the middle of the land is usually a sky yard with a well – this is a place to worship ancestors and organize community activities such as filial piety and joy.

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Hegui Lou

Families living in the same Tulou often have little distinction in terms of social status or wealth, and all apartments in the long-term are built the same way. Common property such as water wells, fruit trees in the earth for a long time are often considered common property, not belonging to a certain family.

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Yangxian Lou


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The inside of Yangxian Lou

Each Tulou can be seen as a small village or a “small kingdom” of a large family. Contrary to the simple external structure, the inside of each earthen is built with elaborate decorations, so that it is warm in winter, cool in summer. The rooms are well lit, well ventilated, and the entire building is built to be earthquake resistant.

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A worship place inside Zhengfu Lou

Currently, there are more than 20,000 terrestrial places scattered in the mountainous southeast of Fujian province. Ten of them are more than 600 years old. This is considered the “living fossil” of ancient construction architecture in China.

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Chuxi Tulou

The collection of 46 Tulou in Fujian was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2008 and adopted the common name for this architectural style is Fujian Earthen Building.

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