Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hakka Architecture: The Tulou

Tulou cluster
Photo Credit: Ed 37
The Tulou are traditional residences of the Hakka, who are thought to be the earliest settlers of Han Chinese. There are approximately 38,000 tulou in the Fujian province, and some of which have been declared world heritage sites. Many of these had been isolated until the 1990s.

Photo Credit: Ed 37
The literal meaning of the name Hakka is "the guest people" due to various migrations over the centuries into the southern parts of China and around the world - often due to invasions. It is no surprise then that tulous are designed to protect the inhabitants from bandits.

Photo Credit: Slices of Light
Tulou literally translates to earthen structures, though not all are made of earth - especially more modern ones. Typically though, the outer wall is earthen or some form or brick, and the inside is wooden frameworks. They each have only one entrance, are protected by a wall and a gate, and generally range from 3-5 stories high. They are often built in a circular fashion, though some are square shaped.

Tulou entrance
Photo Credit: Robert
Inside a tulou
Photo Credit: Slices of Light
Hundreds of people of the same clan would live in the tulou - it was, in a sense, its own community. - surrounding a central shrine, it housed an area for food storage, an armory, a space for livestock, and living quarters. 
Ancestral temple inside a tulou
Photo Credit: Ed 37
Tulous that used to house upwards of 600 people are now the homes to a dozen or two as the younger generations move to the cities. Hopefully, being world heritage sites, and growing tourism, these structures will continue to stand the test of time.

300 year old tulou
Photo Credit: Bella Lim
All four of us appreciate architecture - especially when it is someone's home - and these are particularly unique in their sense of community. There must have been quite the buzz of energy when filled to capacity!

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