Tulou: Walking into Living Homes


This part of China was never on the list of holiday ideas at the time until its now-famous Fujian Tulou (Chinese: 福建土樓) was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Driven by curiosity I decided to have a look at these strange constructions that were once mistaken as traces of UFO on our planet. Well, perhaps this itself was a story created by some business-minded people to boost tourism, I was one of those who were fascinated by the idea and decided to spend my precious holiday there in the mountainous region of Fujian, China.

The coach journey was an adventure itself. My coach could barely fit in those bumpy, narrow and often curvy roads. At the time, the region was not nearly ready for a huge travel coach or stream of visitors, which was good. I got to enjoy the privilege of walking around those largely unspoiled villages. Sad to say though, at the time I could already see signs of the place being commercialized; shops selling typical souvenirs like postcards, snow globes and travel guides.

Each of the tulou was like a little city itself, with its own living area and community. In the ‘King of Tulou’ there were a total of 370 rooms! The local guide told me that at its peak there were 80 families living in this one single tulou. I was simply amazed by the magnificent structure of this circular building and how it could accommodate hundreds of people, given that they were built almost 1,000 years ago when multi-storey buildings were not at all common.

I could actually walk into the living homes of villagers. Only the ground floor of any tulou was opened for tourists, the upper floors were the villagers’ homes. The buildings were still occupied by families, even when it was at the same time open to visitors. This was perhaps what fascinated me most. Tulou was not just a historical relic, but living homes of villagers that I could step into and get a taste of their lives. It was not like visiting an old Roman theatre that had been abandoned for years or some constructions that were historically significant during the WWII. In some parts of the buildings I could actually see villagers on their day-to-day living state: some cooking with the very traditional kitchenware, some hanging laundry out on the balcony.

I was asked a few times why I would take a trip to a place as undeveloped and rural as that. What instantly sprang to mind was a quote by Paul Theroux: ‘The fact that few people go there is one of the most persuasive reasons for travelling to a place.’
 I guess it explains why.

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Published in Asia, China, Ecotourism, Places to Go

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I have one simple wish: to share my experience, those spectacular views and lovely moments in my journey. I capture them in my camera, in my memory, now in my words. If you’re looking for travel information, consult a travel guide; but if you’re looking for travel experience that’s so real,...

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