The Hakka people speak the Hakka language and belong to a subgroup of the Han Chinese people based in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Fujian in China. Their ancestors were often said to have arrived from what is today’s central China centuries ago, but the origins of the Hakkas is still a contested issue.It is said that in a series of migrations, the Hakkas moved, settled in their present locations in southern China, and then migrated overseas to various countries throughout the world. They have had a significant influence on the course of Chinese and overseas Chinese history: in particular, they have been a source of revolutionary, political, and military leaders.
Fujian Tulou, the splendid invention of dwelling houses, pearl-like disperses in the mountainous regions in the southwest of Fujian province, a province west to Taiwan. The 15th to 20th centuries constructed buildings, known as Hakka Earthen Fortress, represents the sophisticated building art of ancient Hakka Chinese. They have been well preserved to date, and were listed as a World Heritage Site in July, 2008. Tulou, in Hakka’s lives, means much more than a homely shelter.
Due to their agrarian lifestyle, the Hakkas have a unique architecture based on defense and communal living, and a hearty savory cuisine based on an equal balance between texturised meat and vegetables, and fresh vegetables.
When Hakkas expanded into areas with pre-existing populations, there was often little agricultural land left for them to farm. As a result, many Hakka men turned towards careers in the military or public service. Consequently, the Hakka culturally emphasized education.
Unlike the majority of other Han Chinese women, Hakka women did not practice footbinding.
Ancient China has made a great mark in history in terms of huge engineering and mega structures. One of the most famous and popular of these is the Great Wall of China built between 220 BC and 200 BC. Under the command of the emperor, it was built by the state as a defense against the invading nomadic Huns. Another historical land mark is the Forbidden City or what is known today as the Palace Museum. It is the world’s largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares.
Up until today, there are numerous ancient engineering marvels that are still standing in China and continuously attract tourists from all over the world. Most of these, like the Great Wall, were built by the state for one reason or another. However, the Hakka rammed earth buildings called Tulou are engineering marvels of individual community and in many cases, individual families. In Fujian, the Tulou can be found in three different counties: Yongding, Nanjing and Hua’an.
Among the three, Yongding county (mostly in Hukeng) has the most Tulou – around 8,000. Most of the houses though are square and only 360 are round or doughnut-shaped. The reason for this is that the latter are more difficult to build than the former.
The Tulou would not have come about if not for the Hakka. Their culture, need for protection and their strong will to adapt to their environment created these ancient mega structures or dwellings. These factors go a long way in explaining why these massive buildings are still standing tall today. In order to understand the story behind this unique architecture, one should look at the origin of the Hakka in Western Fujian.