Tulou

by Craig Casterline February. 20, 2021 170 views

Four dishes and a plate

Four dishes and a plate

The Grand Tulou -- over 700 years old and houses about 2,000 people

The Grand Tulou -- over 700 years old and houses about 2,000 people

A a couple years ago, we had the opportunity to visit the famous tulous (pronounced two lows) of Fujian province. The name Tulou literally means earth wall which is what these structures are. They are circular buildings made of packed mud and bamboo which house small communities with the largest accommodating around 2,000 people. These structures were designed to be a fortress against marauding bandits (which they were) while allowing the community to live inside not inconvenienced by the closing of the compound. Additionally, the structure is said to keep the dwellings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

The community well inside the tulou

The community well inside the tulou

The view from the inside

The view from the inside

It was quite the cultural experience and our first time out in the countryside. There are many different places where one can see tulous, but this is probably the most popular site for our area. This particular place is referred to as "four dishes and a soup" with the four tulous being the dishes and the square building being the soup.

The tulous represent past civilizations in China, and until recently, this area was going the way of many of the small, traditional areas of China, which is moving into obscurity. The young people move away for education and then never move back because there is no industry, no jobs for them to move back to. As the story goes, some time in the 1980s US satellite images of China aroused some concerns. The images of the tulous looked suspiciously like missile silos. So, wanting to know if China had missiles near their coastline, the US military sent in some Green Berets to assess the situation. The soldiers made it in and checked out the tulous, then returned laughing. China found out about what happened and spread the story and the popularity of the houses that fooled the Americans grew until they became a famous tourist site, and remain so today. This notoriety saved the villages which now have an industry--tourism.

People still live in the tulous, and when you visit them, you feel like you are walking into someone's front yard. It almost feels like a violation of privacy. But this is how life works.

Making peanut brittle

Making peanut brittle

Much of the community is elderly

Much of the community is elderly

A local artist

A local artist

We also stopped by a little village that resembled a small European village (at least in my conception). It was very quaint and naturally beautiful, which was a pleasant change from the noise, pollution, and industry of the city.

Here is a site in case you would like to learn more.
http://localcode.org/2017/09/tulou-a-defensive-home/

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There are 10 comments , add yours!
Gethin Thomas 4 months ago

Really interesting and somewhere new to me.

4 months ago Edited
Craig Casterline Replied to Gethin Thomas 4 months ago

Thank you

4 months ago Edited
R Kuerbovich 4 months ago

Amazing pictures! And a very ssurprising concept, the "castle" not as a military infrastructure but as civilian defense system. Great post, thanks a lot for sharing

4 months ago Edited
Craig Casterline Replied to R Kuerbovich 4 months ago

Thank you. They are some very interesting buildings from another time.

4 months ago Edited
John Durham 4 months ago

Fascinating! And such intimate portraits - lovely people.

4 months ago Edited
Craig Casterline Replied to John Durham 4 months ago

Thank you.

4 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab 4 months ago

Very, very interesting Craig. I am so glad you are sharing your photos and your commentaries. They are beautiful captures and for those of us who have not had a chance to visit that part of the world extremely educational smile

4 months ago Edited
Craig Casterline Replied to Camellia Staab 4 months ago

Thank you. I'm just glad that people are interested. Life is very different over here.

4 months ago Edited
Benny Law 4 months ago

Super interesting post! I never heard of these buildings before. The Green Beret story made me laugh.

4 months ago Edited
Craig Casterline Replied to Benny Law 4 months ago

It is a funny one and from what I can tell true. It is more a word of mouth legend than something I have been able to verify, though.

4 months ago Edited
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