The Fujian Tulou are earth-packed roundhouses, some of them over 1000 years old, and homes to indigenous Hakka families. The buildings date as far back as the 13th century and house up to 800 people. Despite the fact they’re made from mud, they remain well preserved.
Like castles, the Fujian Tulou were built as defensive structures and placed with Feng Shui in mind. This gives a sense of calm to the area and the clusters are pleasing to view from above. Traditionally, they would house an entire clan as a kind of self-sustaining village and they still retain that family feel today.
The tulou crop up in clusters throughout central Fujian. Each offers a great opportunity to meet the Hakkka people and sample a unique cuisine.
We had the chance to explore these a few years ago, in February, just before Chinese New Year. This was one of the most authentic and unique journeys we took in China. The tulou have an architecture and a rustic kind of feel we’ve never seen anywhere else in the world.
Read on to discover the major Fujian Tulou, how to access them and what to look out for.
Hongkeng Tulou Cluster
A great base for exploring the Fujian
You have to pay to get inside the Hongkeng tourist village. You can buy passes just for the day (recommended if you decide to stay outside
It can get a little crowded at times here, but it’s still a great place to get a taste for traditional Tulou life. Despite being a tourist resort, these Fujian tulou are still occupied by local villagers. Hongkeng is a great place to wander around in the evenings, when the crowds go down and you can get a sense for how these people live their lives.
Just outside the village, are restaurants where you can sample local traditional cuisine. We recommend trying Hakka taro dumplings (
You’ll need a driver to see the other villages and Liuliancun is a great base for arranging this. Chances are that your accommodation will be able to arrange either a motorbike or car driver for you. But feel free to ask around the shops outside Hongkeng village as you might be able to arrange a better deal.
Note, in some of the
Chengqilou and Gaobei Village
Chengqilou is the largest of the Fujian Tulou, although not the tallest. Outside, the building towers 16.4 metres above you, without a nail in sight. You’ll find two more smaller
You’ll probably enter through the main southern facing entrance, but there are two more entrances in the building. The central building inside the three concentric rings is an ancestral hall.
Chengqilou is located in Gaobei village (Google Map), which contains a mix of
Taxia Village (Google map) is perhaps the most idyllic of the Fujian Tulou clusters, and the one I’d most recommend visiting. Located in a valley, the entire village has been built in a traditional Chinese way along a river brook. Again this has a mix of Tulou (mostly square although some round) and other traditional Chinese buildings. One of the Tulou here, in fact, dates back to 1631.
If you’ve hired a driver for the day, this is a great place to stop off to have lunch and sample Hakka cuisine. Then sit by the riverside and drink tea as you watch the locals wade in the clear waters.
Before leaving, on one side of the bridge, you’ll find steps leading up the hill. Hidden above these is a beautifully preserved over 400-year old ancestral hall from the Ming dynasty, installed by the Zhang family. Across the pond from the hall, are 22 ornately decorated stone columns, built to honour those who made significant contributions to the Zhang family.
Much more rustic looking than the other Fujian Tulou, Yunchanglou (Google Map) feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. This is the tulou to visit if you want to take a step back in time. Surrounded by a tiny hamlet and rice paddies, and situated on a river just above a small waterfall, Yuchanglou is one of the oldest known Tulou in China. It was constructed in 1308 and remains remarkably preserved from that date. Unfortunately, its inner ring was recently dismantled. At five-stories high, Yuchanglou is also one of the tallest Tulou in China.
From inside, if you look up, you’ll see how the supporting posts zigzag, giving Yuchanglou its nickname of the ‘zigzag building’. Also inside, you’ll find a well that supplies the entire Tulou with water. Yuchanglou is the only Fujian
Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster
Out of all the Fujian Tulou (Google map), it’s Tianluokeng that tends to appear in the magazines. This cluster consists of four circular Tulou arranged around a square
Despite being a large tourist attraction, these five Tulou still retain an incredibly rustic feel. You’ll commonly see locals drying tea, rice and vegetables and curing meats in the sun.
It’s a steep but relevantly short climb up from Tianluokeng to the viewing platform on the road above. If you don’t fancy the climb, you can also ask your driver to take you up there. It’s well worth getting there though, as the views over the Tulou are fantastic. If you arrive early enough, you might be treated to a view of the Tianluokeng Tulou offset against the mountain mists. Or get there at night to see each Tulou lit up in a different colour.
Getting to the Fujian Tulou and where to stay
The best way to get to these is by bus from Longyan to the village of Liuliancun. Once there, ask around: some of the restaurants have accommodation above, including the one at the end of the street, run by a lady whose English name is Alice. This is one of the cheaper options and it’s a great way to meet the locals.
If you’d rather get the authentic experience and stay in a Tulou, Tulou Fuyulou Changdi Inn has a selection of comfortable twin and double rooms with reasonably soft beds. The owner: Stephen is an incredibly helpful guy, he met us at Liuliancun, helped us get the tickets for
You can also get to the Tianluokeng via bus from Xiamen or Nanjing. The Xiamen bus leaves from Xiamen Hubin South Bus Station at 8:30 a.m. and the journey lasts 3.5 hours. Buses from Nanjing Railway station are more frequent, leaving every hour and taking 1.5 hours. Both these options make it possible to daytrip at least to Tianluokeng, although you might be hard pushed to visit the other Tulou within a day.
Make sure you take cash with you as you travel around the clusters. You need to pay individually for each one. Entry can be up to 100 yuan.
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