The word ‘Hakka’ literally means ‘guest families’ and refers to a branch of Han people that originate from the central plains of China whose numbers today stand at more than 80 million people.
The migration of the Hakka people to the southern provinces started in earnest due to the pressure exerted from the north by the Manchu during the Ming Dynasty. Fleeing the center of China, the integration of the Hakka into the lands where they took refuge proved difficult and quickly descended into battles with local communities, who viewed the appearance of these ‘guests’ with great suspicion.
The architectural style of the tulou is the materialization of these historical conflicts. Made principally of clay and square or (more commonly) round in shape, the tulou are vast, impressive fortresses that housed many hundreds of people.
Isolated, virtually self-contained microcosms of the outside world, tulou often feature a temple for ancestor worship and a school in the center. Its wells, kitchens, and supply areas make the Hakka fortresses practically autonomous entities and remain some of the most interesting architectural and sociological sites of China.
The tulou, some of which are listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, can be found all over the Fujian and Guangdong provinces, but it’s close to the town of Yongding that the majority can be found. There are still thousands of fortresses in existence and a large number of them are still inhabited.
If you’d like to discover the fascinating structures, our ‘Discover China’s Architectural Marvels’ tour takes travelers to the Hongkeng fortresses and visits the Zhencheng Lou tolou, the construction of which dates back to the start of the 20th century, and Kuiju Lou, which is a square style tulou, letting travelers appreciate the two principal architectural forms of these rare constructions.
The visit also includes the unique chance to enjoy a traditional family dinner and spend the night in Chengqi Lou, considered the ‘King of Tulou’ to further understand and appreciate this unique lifestyle.
Be sure to contact one of our expert China Travel Specialists if you’d like to book a trip to this captivating nation.