Hakka Tulou

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling

 

Mostly built between the 12th and the 20th centuries, the Tulou are large fortified buildings representing a specific and traditional housing type of the Fujian province of Southern China. Their recurring layout is made up of a thick enclosure wall, rectangular or circular, which hosts the living and storage areas and a central courtyard with a small building in the middle used for ceremonies. With a height between three and five stories, a Toulou can house up to 80 families and contains in itself all the feature of an entire village.

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling

The type was born mostly for defensive reasons since armed bandits plagued southern China from the 12th to the 19th centuries and it proved to be really effective against armed attacks. The Tulou have commonly been built by the Hakka populations, immigrants from northern China who settled in the southern provinces. The peripheral walls of the fortified structure, with a thickness of up to 1.8 m, are usually built of rammed earth, mixed with stone, bamboo with a lumber framework and other materials available on site, providing the building of a good insulation as well as a natural ventilation. The last floor is covered by a cantilevered slate rooftops and there is usually only one gate serving as an entry to the building.

All the rooms in the living areas share the same size and level of decoration: there’s no hierarchy in the units as there is no real hierarchy in the community of people inhabiting each Toulu: everybody usually belongs to the same clan, a group of up to 80 families. The inhabitants share the same conditions and mutualise several features in the building: common areas, bathrooms, washrooms as well as water wells and even the farmed land around is common property. Each family has two or three superposed rooms, connected through wooden stairs. At the groundfloor is usually located the kitchen, opened on the patio; on the first and/or second floor are the bedrooms, and on the higher floor there are the communal stored food, clothes and valuables.

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing

Tulou typology
(Source: Huang Hanmin in:
“Chuugoku minkyou no kuukan o saguru”,
Keiichirou Mogi, Kenchiku Shiryo Kenkyusha Co. Ltd., 1991) via http://www.chinadwelling.dk/hovedsider/clan_homes-tekst.htm

 

 

Communal life usually takes place in the central courtyard: the void may work at the same time as a marketplace, as a site for worship and celebration, as the space for children’s play or as an outdoor kitchen on summertime. Each level has wooden walkways (towards the courtyard side) climbing up to the upper floors, supported by beams projecting from the wall. The Toulou are caracterized by an interesting growth pattern, (almost an anticipation to Fumihiko Maki’s studies): when the population has reached its limits, either a new ring is built around the first wall or a new unit is constructed just adjacently to the existing one. A combination of several Tulous becomes a cluster system, hosting only families from the same clan.

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing section

 

 

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing axonometry

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing plan

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing plan Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing

 

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling drawing

Typical Tulou communal dwelling in Southern China (elevation, plan, and section) (Source: Michi Bier, “Asian Dwellings – A Typology”, an exhibition catalogue published in 1991

 

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling photo
Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling photo

 

 

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling photo

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling photo

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling photo

Hakka Tulou traditional Chinese Dwelling photo

A video of the Fujian Tulou (comprising 46 buildings) now part of the Unesco Heritage

 

Images via:

Clan homes in Fujian
Matt Hertzell’s China Blog
jijis
Gerd Benninger
Caro Spark
Slices of Light
Ryan Kellett

Further reading:

Spatial order and typology of Hakka Dwellings
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF FUJIAN TULOU (YONGDING), CHINA
Old China Books Book Blog
Matt Hertzell’s China Blog
Clan homes in Fujian

Follow the series on Socks:

Walls as Rooms: British Castles and Louis Khan
Walls as Rooms /2: Fortified Churches in Transylvania
Walls as Rooms /3: Henri Sauvage as a Model for MVRDV

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