In 2008, UNESCO designated China’s Hakka Houses as a World Heritage Site, recognizing their historic, cultural, and architectural value. Built from the 12th to the 20th century, these structures housed up to 800 people each, providing safety, shelter, and community. Also known as Fujian Tulou, there are 20,000 of these buildings across the Fujian province of China, protecting inhabitants from bandits and warlords. A typical tulou is a three to five-story earthen wall with a single entrance, protected by a thick wooden door and an iron gate. Tulou roofs have gun holes to ward off intruders.
Hakka Houses: Rustic Charm and Ample Living Space
These buildings exude the rustic charm and visual appeal of rural China with their clay tiled roofs, wooden framing, stone walkways, and earthen walls. Hakka Houses come in various sizes, ranging from the very small with 12 to 18 rooms to the super large round buildings with 60 to 72 rooms, providing ample living space for up to 800 people.
Design and Security Features of Round Earth Buildings in Hakka Houses
Two-thirds of the round buildings are three stories high and can accommodate around 20 families or 100 people. These round earth buildings are designed for communal living with a single main entrance and walls about 1 meter thick. The entrance door is reinforced with iron sheets and secured with two horizontal wooden bars that retract into the walls for opening. Even if the wooden bars are sawed through, the locking mechanism remains intact.
Design Features and Interior Layout of Hakka Houses
Upon entering the building, one is greeted by a vast central courtyard that is open to all the doors of the rooms and inner windows. The ground level rooms are used for kitchens and dining rooms, while the second floor serves as storage space, and the third level is designated as bedrooms. Each level features identical rooms with an open round hallway in front of each. Four staircases are typically present to facilitate movement between levels.
The average room size is around 10-13 square meters, with larger buildings offering rooms around 15 square meters. The windows facing outside are small, with those on the outer wall smaller than those on the inner wall to provide wider surveillance from within. Windows at ground level are usually absent, making it challenging for outsiders to enter through them.
Hakka Houses of China are a testament to the country’s rich cultural and architectural heritage. These remarkable structures, also known as Fujian Tulou, are not only visually stunning but also serve as an important reminder of the region’s history and the struggles of its people against warlords and bandits.
The communal living style of these buildings is remarkable, with each round earth building designed to accommodate up to 800 people within its thick walls. The layout of the buildings, with their central courtyards and identical rooms, provides a sense of order and community that is both unique and inspiring.
The designation of these buildings as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008 is a testament to their importance and value to the world. A visit to these buildings is truly a journey through time, offering an opportunity to witness the incredible architecture and culture of rural China in all its glory.