China, Cultural Travel, UNESCO WHS, Yongding

Fujian Hakka Tulou, Part 2

Day 1 of our Hakka tulou building visit was special and interesting, but hectic.  In spite of being “off season”, there were many large tour buses, small mini vans, and private vehicles at most of the tulou buildings and villages we visited.

Day 2 was different.  Most Fujian tour groups will only visit one cluster of the tulou buildings, either the Nanjing cluster or the Yongding cluster, before heading off to the next Fujian highlight, typically back to Xiamen, or off to Wuyishan.  By choosing to staying overnight at Hongkeng village, not only will we be able to visit both the Nanjing and the Yongding clusters, but we will also be able to visit some of the best tulou buildings early in the morning before the tourist crowd arrives and experience authentic rural village life.

Our overnight accommodation – Fuyulou Changdi Inn

After a good night sleep in the 136 year-old UNESCO world heritage building,, we were served a simple breakfast of congee with 3 different kinds of preserved vegetables condiments, boiled eggs and nian gao (new year steam cake).

Simple breakfast served

Then armed with a map provided by the guest house’s owner Stephan, we began our leisurely walk around the village to observe village life, and to find the famous well-preserved heritage buildings.

Hongkeng Hakka Tulou village map showing walking paths

Walking path leaving our Tulou Inn

Elementary school kids in playground

83-year old lady enjoying her morning work on a vegetable garden

Village free range chicken

The Hongkeng  tulou cluster within “Stephan’s village” boast over 40 tulou buildings in different in size and shape (circular, square, rectangular, crescent, and other variations).  All the tulou buildings were built by the descendants of  the “Lin” family, a rich tobacco merchant.  He started to build the tulou buildings during the late Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) and early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  The accessible and famous  representatives of the Hongkeng tulou cluster are Zhengchenglou, Kuijulou, Rushenglou, and Fuyulou (the building of our guest house).

Waterwheels on the river

We walked past villagers working on their vegetable patches, washing clothes, taking their children to school, cooking breakfast, sweeping their courtyards, selling meat and produce on our way to see Zhengchenglou.

Zhengchenglou is well known as “the Prince of Tulou”. Its construction started in 1912 by the Lin family, and took 5 years. Zhengchenglou has two concentric rings (outer and inner ring). The outer ring building has four storeys with 48 rooms on each floor. The inner ring is a two storey building made of brick and wood with 32 rooms. Its center is the hall used as an ancestral hall, and also serve as a place for important events like marriages and mournings.

Zhengchenglou is well known as “the Prince of Tulou”.

We were the sole visitors at this tulou this morning.  It was so peaceful, just us and the tulou residents going about their morning routines.  We had the time to reflect on the generations of family that have lived within these walls, the war, the peace, sad times, happy times that have passed, and are still continuing on the same way today in spite of it being an UNESCO building, and thousands of visitors dropping by every day.

Ancestral hall in Zhengchenglou

The inner ring and outer ring of Zhengchenglou connects to each other via corridors.

Residents enjoying their morning tea in one of the many pretty courtyards in Zhengchenglou.

One of the indoor dining room where a young Zhengchenglou resident is having his breakfast and watching cartoon.

Next we visited the Kuijulou, a square tulou building built on a hillside facing south, with the rear building higher (4 levels), and the front building lower.  It is the only palace styled tulou building in Yongding County. It is also known as “Potala Palace” since it is similar to the style of the Tibetan palace.  Square tulou buildings are older than the round tulou building, Kuijulou was started in 1834.

Kuijulou is square and is styled like a palace.

Then we visited Rushenglou, one of the smallest tulou buildings in Yongding. It was built between 1875 and 1908. Rushenglou is a three-storey earth building of brick and rammed earth.

Rushenglou is the smallest tulou.

Inside the smallest tulou, Rushenglou.

We also visited one of the newest tulou building, Qingchenglou. This square building was built in 1937, is about 1,100 square meters in area, and now houses a small museum about the Hakka people, their migration from different regions, and their culture.

Qingchenglou is the newest tulou. It houses the museum about the Hakka people and their migration.

Map showing Hakka people’s migration.

A display of the Hakka culture.

The village temple.

It was time to start heading back to our guest house to check out of our guest room, and for our trip back to Xiamen.  On the way back, we stopped by a village temple, and a rice wine museum and workshop.

Rice wine distillery.

When it was time to go, we were reluctant to leave such a serene place.  This place spoke to our Chinese heritage.   Our ancestors, even as recent as our own parents, live parts of their lives in these types of villages.  The vegetables we saw drying in front of the tulou building were just like the dry vegetables our parents made.  As Fujian and Guangdong provinces are next to each other, the food and culture between the two provinces have intermixed over the centuries.  In fact, what we thought were Guangdong food in fact has its origin as Hakka food.

This trip in search of Fujian Hakka tulou buildings has enriched our lives in so many ways.

 

 

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