2-Day Hakka Earth Building Tour

Highlights:

  • Explore the most extraordinary type of Chinese rural dwelling, the circular Hakka rammed earth buildings, otherwise known as the Fujian Tulou. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you will also get to spend the night in one of these buildings
  • For this tour you will have your own private guide and driver, which will ensure that your tour is safe, fun, and hassle-free

(L=lunch)

Detailed itinerary:

Day 1 Xiamen-Chengqiao Lu (L)

Today well spend the day exploring the amazing Hakka Earthen Buildings (otherwise known as a “tulou”). The Fujian Tulou is "the most extraordinary type of Chinese rural dwellings of the Hakka and others in the mountainous areas in southwestern Fujian. They were mostly built between the 12th and the 20th centuries. A tulou is usually a large, enclosed and fortified earth building, rectangular or circular in configuration, with very thick load-bearing rammed earth walls between three and five stories high and housing up to 80 families. Smaller interior buildings are often enclosed by these huge peripheral walls which can contain halls, storehouses, wells and living areas, the whole structure resembling a small fortified city.

From your hotel in Xiamen we will make the 2.5 hr drive to visit the tulou cluster of Tianluokeng, which is in Nanjing county. Tianluokeng Earth Buildings Complex is the Huang Family’s residence. The Earth Buildings are composed of one square building (Buyun Building), three circle buildings (Hechang Building, Zhenchang Building, and Ruiyun Building) and one oval building (Wenchang Building). The square building Fangyun Building sets in the middle while other four buildings surround it. The buildings scatter and interlock according to the lie of the mountains. If overlooked from a higher place, the buildings look like blooming plum blossoms embellished on the earth embraced by the mountains. While look up them from the foot of the mountains, it occupies a mountainside position, looking down the world like the Potala Palace. As a combination of exquisite constructions, Tianluokeng Earth Buildings Complex is a perfect landscape with the connection of cultural and natural elements and is acclaimed as the peak of perfection.

At the complex we will wander around and take a peek at the daily lives of these fascinating peoples. We will then head to drive to Yongding, where we will spend the night in an authentic Hakka earthen building village that is known as a tulou. The tulou has a shape of an emerging mushroom, or of a falling flying saucer. In the Cold War, it was even believed by the Western countries, when examining some tulous, that is was used as China’s nuclear reactor!

Afterward we will then proceed to the tulous of Yuchanglou. Yuchanglou is a five-story tulou located at Nangjing county Shuyang district Xiabanliao village. It was built in 1308 by the Liu family clan. It is one of the oldest and tallest tulou in China. Yuchanglou has been nicknamed the "zigzag building", because the vertical wooden post structure is not straight and perpendicular, but zigzags left and right. It was built that way due to an error measuring the building materials. But in spite of this apparent infirmity, this tall tulou withstood 700 hundred years of natural elements and social turmoil. Yuchanglou's outer ring is 36 m in diameter and boasts five stories, with 50 rooms on each floor. Each of the 25 kitchens on the ground floor at the back half of the circle has a private water well beside its stove. This is the only tulou in all of Fujian with such convenient water supply. There was a one story inner-ring house surrounding the ancestral hall as late as 2003. This part of the building stood nearly 700 years intact until, unfortunately, it was dismantled after 2003.

Then we will head to the “king of the tulou” at Chengqi Lou, which is located in Yongding county, and was built in 1709. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, it is massive rotunda tulou with four concentric rings surrounding an ancestral hall at the center, the outer ring is 62.6 meters in diameter and four storeys tall, 288 rooms, with 72 rooms on each level, circular corridor on 2nd to 4th floor, with four sets of staircases at cardinal points connecting ground to top floors. A big roof extending out ward covers the main ring. The ground floor rooms are kitchens for family branches, the second level rooms are grain storage rooms, and the 3rd and 4th floor rooms are living quarters and bedrooms. The second ring of 80 rooms is two storeys high, with 40 rooms on each level, the third ring served as community library, one storey with 32 rooms; there are 370 rooms in all. The 4th ring is a circular covered corridor surrounding the ancestral hall. If a person stayed for one night in each room, it would take him more than a year to go through all the rooms. The ancestral hall is at the center. Chengqilou has two main gates and two side gates. 15th generation Jiang clan with 57 families and 300 people live here. At its heyday, there were more than 80 family branches lived in Chengqilou.

Other buildings in this cluster include: a three ring Shenyuanlou, outer ring 70m diameter; a Wujiaolou (pentagon) with irregular pentagonal floor plan and a rectangular tulou, the Shi-Ze lou.

Day 2 Chengqi Lou-Xiamen (L)

After an early morning rise we’ll drive to the town of Meilin to visit the Heguilou tulou. This large square building is 21.5 meters and five stories high. It is the highest of all the earth buildings and most interesting of all, it was constructed on a swampland and has been impregnable for more than 200 years.

Following our visit we’ll head to the nearby ancient village of Changjiao. As soon as you step into Changjiao Village, the long ancient pates, hundred-year old banyan, marvelous tulous and the delicately beautiful mountains and water all leave you a peaceful and detached impression. In the village, beside the bank of the stream or under the banyan, ancient paths made of cobblestones cross and shuttle back and forth, silence being imbued with mystery and boundless feelings. Although some of them are bumpy and some even have been ignored and forgotten, smooth stones still bear the joys, sorrows, dreams and desires of one generation after another. When you wander in the spectacular tulou, the rural scenery, with winding path leading to seclusions, make you command a panoramic view which is brimming with interest.

Your last stop on the tour will be the tulou at Huaiyuanlou. Huaiyuanlou is a representative medium-size round earth building which has a unique style with double rings. It is also the most elegant one, and one which is protected best. Built during 1905-1909, it covers an area of 1384.7 square meters. Four brothers of Jian`s clan spent 3 years finishing the construction and invested more than 200 kilograms of silver. The building has 4 floors and is as high as 13 meters. The first floor has 34 halls, and the other four floors have 136 rooms. The building has only one gate. There is a mini building situated in the center of the courtyard and it looks to the gate. In May 2006, it was listed as cultural relics protection unit of the country; in July 2008, it was listed in the World Heritage List.

After the tulou at Huaiyuanlou you will be driven back to your hotel in Xiamen, ending your tour.


        Jason Miller, Ft. Wayne, IN, USA:

Easily the best part of my China trip was the visit to the round homes of the Hakka. Just being inside them gave me a feeling of amazement. Of course, the best part was being able to spend the night in one of them. It all felt really authentic, and was a nice change of pace from the hordes of tourists at the Great Wall and in Shanghai. The driver and guide were both really good, and everything went according to plan. A memorable experience to say the least!