Tulou, the unique residential architecture of Fujian Province in southeastern China is inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee that is taking place in this eastern Canadian city Quebec (2008).
A Hakka walled village is a large multi-family communal living structure that is designed to be easily defensible. This building style is unique to the Hakka people found in southern China (Hakka is “Kè-jiā” 客家 in Mandarin Chinese). Walled villages are typically designed for defensive purposes and consist of one entrance and no windows at the ground level.
The Hakka were originally immigrants from northern China who settled in the southern provinces. From the 17th century onwards, population pressures drove them more and more into conflict with their neighbours (called punti in Cantonese). As rivalry for resources turned to armed warfare, the Hakka began building communal living structures designed to be easily defensible. These houses, sometimes called tulou 土楼, were often round in shape and internally divided into many compartments for food storage, living quarters, ancestral temple, armoury etc. The largest houses covered over 40,000 m² and it is not unusual to find surviving houses of over 10,000 m².
The Hakkas who settled in mountainous south western Fujian province in China developed unique architectural buildings called tu lou, literally meaning earthen structures. Because of the undesirable mountainous regions, the Hakkas set up these unique homes to prevent attack from bandits and marauders. The tu lou 土楼; are either round or square, and were designed as a large fortress and apartment building in one. Structures typically had only one entranceway and no windows at ground level. Each floor served a different function – the first hosts a well and livestock, the second is for food storage and the third and higher floors contain living spaces. Tu lou can be found mostly in south western Fujian and southern Jiangxi provinces. Tulou buildings have been inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.