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Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

In Brief: A four day trip that took us into the mountains of Fujian to explore the tulou buildings of the Hakka people, and to Xiamen to see both ancient and more recent cultural and historical sights.

A view from above of the Chuxi tulou cluster - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Tulou buildings in Fujian Province.

On this trip we travelled down to Fujian Province, with the main attraction being the tulou buildings of the Hakka people, deep in the mountains.

As well as spending two days looking around the villages, valleys, and rice terraces where the tulou buildings are sited, we visited various sights in Xiamen – the Huli Cannon Fort, the seafood market, and the island of Gulangyu.

We flew into Xiamen from Beijing, and after checking in at our hotel we went out for a walkabout.

The first stop was the Huli Mountain Cannon Fort, the site of Xiamen's (known as Amoy at the time) old coastal defences. The fort saw action from 1894-1896 and was successful for a few battles, bristling with all sizes of cannons that protected the harbour.

Conveniently close to the fort is a seafood market and shopping street, where we headed for a tasty dinner and then a wee evening walkabout before returning to rest at the hotel.

The next day we woke up early for the main event of the trip, the exploration of the villages, valleys, and unique architecture of the tulou area in Yongding County, a 3 hour drive out of Xiamen and into the mountains.

'Tulou' translates literally as 'earth building', and rammed earth is what they are mainly constructed of. The buildings are usually circular, although some are square, and they are typically home to a clan, with several generations living inside.

We were able to stay overnight in one of the tulou buildings, an experience that gave us a glimpse of what it would really be like to live inside.

We stayed in the area for two days, which gave us plenty of time to look about several clusters of tulou, and we made sure to do a bit of hiking as well, following trails past paddyfields up into the hills.

On the last day of the trip we returned to Xiamen with enough time to take in the sights of Gulangyu Island before our flight. During the Qing Dynasty, Xiamen was an important trading port, and Gulangyu Island was where all the embassies and trading houses of European countries were found. Much of the architecture on the island is in the Victorian style, and with no private cars allowed on the streets it is a great place to take a stroll and explore the alleys, beachfront, parks, and the restored Victorian houses.

Street food at the night market in Xiamen - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Street food at the night market in Xiamen.

Inside a tulou building in Yongding County. There's something interesting in this box - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Inside a tulou building in Yongding County. There's something interesting in this box.

Baby rabbits! Tasty! (Just joking, baby rabbit wasn't on the menu.) - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Baby rabbits! Tasty! (Just joking, baby rabbit wasn't on the menu.)

Hiking field trails behind the village - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Hiking field trails behind the village.

Flowers and lush foliage - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Flowers and lush foliage.

An ancestral shrine behind the village - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

An ancestral shrine behind the village.

An ancient building with modern additions in the communal courtyard - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

An ancient building with modern additions in the communal courtyard.

Exploring the tulou building - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Exploring the tulou building.

Chopping up yams, one of the staple foods in the area - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Chopping up yams, one of the staple foods in the area.

He's helping too, peeling the skins before the chopping - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

He's helping too, peeling the skins before the chopping.

The cooking area of the tulou building - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

The cooking area of the tulou building.

A traditional card game. The characters on the cards are the same as used for Chinese chess, if that helps - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A traditional card game. The characters on the cards are the same as used for Chinese chess, if that helps...

The main gate of the building. There's usually only one entrance, although some of the buildings have secret escape tunnels - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

The main gate of the building. There's usually only one entrance, although some of the buildings have secret escape tunnels.

Friends on the upper balcony of the tulou building - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Friends on the upper balcony of the tulou building.

A view of the courtyard inside. This tulou has extra halls and rooms inside; some of the tulou buildings have an open courtyard - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A view of the courtyard inside. This tulou has extra halls and rooms inside; some of the tulou buildings have an open courtyard.

We took over the basketball court - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

We took over the basketball court – the village youngsters were no match!

An easy walk up into the hills behind the village, following trails past rice paddys - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

An easy walk up into the hills behind the village, following trails past rice paddys.

Wood is one of the main construction materials - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Wood is one of the main construction materials.

Tiptoeing along - don't fall in! - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Tiptoeing along - don't fall in!

A water buffalo grazes on a terraced field - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A water buffalo grazes on a terraced field.

An elderly main playing erhu (two-stringed violin) below an even more elderly tree - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

An elderly man playing erhu (two-stringed violin) below an even more elderly tree.

A view from above of the Chuxi tulou cluster - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A view from above of the Chuxi tulou cluster.

And a view from ground level - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

And a view from ground level.

In this area a lot of tea is consumed. As soon as you sit down anywhere, out come the teacups, to be filled with locally grown green tea - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

In this area a lot of tea is consumed. As soon as you sit down anywhere, out come the teacups, to be filled with locally grown green tea.

Continuing our tour - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Continuing our tour.

A palanquin like this is typically part of a wedding ceremony - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A palanquin like this is typically part of a wedding ceremony.

Is the bride inside? - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Is the bride inside? Perhaps they're on the way to pick her up.

Balconies and halls inside a square-shaped tulou building - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Balconies and halls inside a square-shaped tulou building.

Very ornate architecture, all constructed with wooden joints and pins - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Very ornate architecture, all constructed with wooden joints and pins.

In a different area, we took a stroll along the riverside and explored another cluster of tulou buildings - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

In a different area, we took a stroll along the riverside and explored another cluster of tulou buildings.

A riverside scene - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A riverside scene.

A very large family compound - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

A very large family compound.

And then we headed back to Xiamen for a look at the mysterious island of Gulangyu.

Ornate decorations in the concrete eaves of a Victorian-era building on Gulangyu Island - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Ornate decorations in the concrete eaves of a Victorian-era building on Gulangyu Island.

This sort of building is found all over Gulangyu Island - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

This sort of building is found all over Gulangyu Island.

Street scene on an old lane on Gulangyu - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

Street scene on an old lane on Gulangyu.

And that was the trip!

The hiking team at the Chuxi tulou cluster - Hakka Tulou Clusters and Xiamen, Fujian Province, 2014/04

The hiking team at the Chuxi tulou cluster.

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