Trip to Yongding Hakka Earth houses (TULOU)
This was a trip I had been wanting to do for ages,but which got postponed because of the hospital trip(see previous post). We decided to go with two student friends of ours Sue and Echo who don’t study at our university but are English majors from nearby Jimei University.
We met up with them at the BRT station to go downtown to the Hubin Nan Lu bus station where we got a bus to the village of Hukeng,a trip of 3 and a half hours through progressively more picturesque scenery hillsides dotted with villages, persimmon trees,and tea terraces. On arrival in Hukeng we were met by Stephen,the guest house owner who was holding a sign with “DAN” written on it!
inside the guest house
Stephen explained that we had to buy entrance tickets to the village,which is a preserved Unesco heritage site,and then took us on two motorbikes (3 people on each) to the village and his Fuyulou Changdi Inn where we had booked two rooms. The guest house building is 130 years old,and built in traditional Hakka style. There is a central courtyard surrounded by rooms on three levels.This would have been shared by several different families. There are apparently thousands of these houses in the area,but nowwadays many of the Tulou houses (made of earth) are empty,or inhabited by only one or two families who maintain them as the children have moved to the city. The whole of the surrounding area is used for cultivating tea,rice,persimmons,and other different fruits and vegetables.
Tulous from above
After checking in,Stephen gave us a map of the village. The plan was to walk around the village for the rest of the day and the following morning we would have a car and driver to take us to visit the surrounding villages and see different styles of Tulou houses. Some are round and some square,but the basic idea is the same,an earthen house with several floors and shared by several families,who use the communal area in the middle to cook,sell stuff and generally hang out.
The village was serene and relaxing,with the houses dotted along the length of a river. There were many tea houses, and huge fat chickens running around everywhere. After eating a great lunch of local Hakka food at the guest house,We walked around the village,and found a temple area where the girls explained the important families had tombs. We also went to a tea house where we sat for a long time with the tea grower who filled and refilled our cups. His great grandfather had originally built the house,and had been a fighter in the Kuomintang. We also bought something which Sue described as a “tea pet”.I thought she meant “teapot” but she was insistent. Itis a small animal made of artificial jade (mine is a frog) used to check if the tea water is hot. When you pour water onto it,it changes colour.
Hukang village and countryside
In the evening we saw dancing outside in a square,returned to to the guest house where we met a group of Russians from the far eastern part of Russia. One said his grandfather was Jewish,and another said he was Jewish himself ,from Birobidjan,and that his brother was a teacher of Yiddish in New York.
We went to bed as we had an early start in the morning.
The next day we set off at 7.30 in a minivan with 3other people and the driver Mr. Wu, to tour the area.
The other people were Mike,a young guy from Hong Kong and a retired couple from Beijing whose names we don’t know as they didn’t speak any English. We drove to a number of different tulou villages and admired the scenery. It was very peaceful and pleasant. We stopped to pick persimmons on one hillside. The whole day was highly relaxing and enjoyable.Some tulous were huge,and some smaller. All had the same basic design of tiered floors made of wood,walls of earth and a central area. We had lunch in a village restaurant, in the traditional Chinese way of sharing all the dishes,and we shared the bill to treat Mr Wu the driver. We saw the last “King of Tulous” which I found disappointing and overcrowded,full of tourists and too many people selling trinkets. It had cost an extra 25RMB each,and I would recommend skipping it. Its supposed attraction is that it has over 200 rooms .But I found other tulous more atmospheric and interesting. At 3pm we got the bus station to return to Xiamen which dropped us at a different bus station but fortunately Sue figured out how to get to the BRT station to go home.