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25 April 2016

Ahead of her 2016 tour Hidden China: Arts, Crafts & Architecture ACE Tour Director and sinologist Elizabeth Morrell discusses her recent trip to the Chinese Fujian Province, where she explored the traditional 'tu lou' buildings in rural Yongding:

At the end of February I escaped the grim British winter and flew to Xiamen on the south-east coast of Fujian Province. At this time of year the air was clear and the temperature mild, the vegetation sub-tropical. Chinese New Year celebrations had just finished, so there were auspicious couplets written on red strips of paper stuck either side of the entrance to many houses, lanterns and the red paper debris of ten thousand firecrackers on the ground. It was a two and a half hour drive on good roads inland to rural Yongding, which is famous for its ‘tu lou’ (literally translated as ‘earth towers' or buildings).

These buildings traditionally housed several hundred ‘hakka’ families. They were built of tamped earth, four or five storeys high, some round, some square and they seem almost fortress-like, indeed the purpose of their design was to protect the communities within. Most were built close to a source of water and are several hundred years old. As you so often find in China, tradition stands side by side with the new, young with the old, tawny chickens scratch around in search of food, stall holders lay out their wares - tobacco, tea, fruit, medicinal herbs and daily life continues.

I am looking forward to my return in the autumn!

Below are some of my images of the ‘tu lou’ in Yongding:



Every ‘tu lou’ has a shrine to Guan Yin - the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.





Kitchens, wells, guest quarters and reception rooms are always on the ground floor.