Monuments to Clan Life Are Losing Their Appeal

The New York Times looks at the traditional dwellings in Fujian Province, the distinctive round earthen “tulou,” where entire clans could live together, but which are now being abandoned for modern apartment blocks:

…The thousands of “earthen buildings” here, built by the ethnic Hakka and Minnan people of rural Fujian Province, are the ultimate architectural expression of clan existence in China.

For centuries, each building, called a tulou in Mandarin Chinese, would house an entire clan, virtually a village. Everyone living inside would have the same surname, except for those who had married into the clan. The tulou usually tower four floors and have up to hundreds of rooms that open out onto a vast central courtyard, like the Colosseum.

The outer walls, made of rammed earth, protected against bandits. The forms vary. Many are square, resembling medieval keeps. With stockpiles of food, people could live for months without setting foot outside the tulou.

But as the clan traditions of China dwindle today, more and more people are moving out of the tulou to live in modern apartments with conveniences absent from the earthen buildings — indoor toilets, for example.

March 22, 2011 10:02 PM
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