A tulou or "earthen tower", is a traditional communal residence in the Fujian province of Southern China, usually of a circular configuration surrounding a central shrine. These vernacular structures were occupied by clan groups.
Although most tulou were of earthen construction, the definition "tulou" is a broadly descriptive label for a building type and does not indicate construction type. Some were constructed of cut granite or had substantial walls of fired brick. Most large-scale tulou seen today were built of a composite of earth, sand, and lime known as sanhetu rather than just earth.
The famous Fujian Tulou, designated as UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, is a small and specialized subgroup of tulou, and are known for their unique shape, large scale, and ingenious structure. There are more than 20,000 tulou in southern Fujian. Approximately 3,000 of them are Fujian Tulou, that is 15% of tulou belongs to Fujian Tulou category.
Date of inscription : 2008
Fujian Tulou is a property of 46 buildings constructed between the 15th and 20th centuries over 120 km in south-west of Fujian province, inland from the Taiwan Strait. Set amongst rice, tea and tobacco fields the Tulou are earthen houses. Several storeys high, they are built along an inward-looking, circular or square floor plan as housing for up to 800 people each. They were built for defence purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. Housing a whole clan, the houses functioned as village units and were known as “a little kingdom for the family” or “bustling small city.” They feature tall fortified mud walls capped by tiled roofs with wide over-hanging eaves. The most elaborate structures date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings were divided vertically between families with each disposing of two or three rooms on each floor. In contrast with their plain exterior, the inside of the tulou were built for comfort and were often highly decorated. They are inscribed as exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization, and, in terms of their harmonious relationship with their environment, an outstanding example of human settlement.
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