In the southeastern Chinese provinces of Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong, there exist a lot of buildings with a long history called "Tulou". Raw earth, the main construction material, has been combined with wood structures, and stones have been used to certain extent. Most of these grand buildings with unique shapes and exquisite structures are round multi-storey buildings in mountainous regions serving the needs of families or villagers living together. These Tulou buildings, in isolation or in clusters, together with other traditional low residences in the localities, form villages large and small. They not only embody a profound cultural and historical tradition, but also integrate with the natural environment perfectly, presenting harmonious and wonderful scenes. Among them, Fujian Tulou buildings are the most representative and numerous.
Fujian Tulou buildings were first built from the 11th century to the 13th century (the Song Dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty of China). After the development period from the 14th century to 16th century (the early and mid Ming Dynasty of China), they became mature from the 17th century to the first half of the 20th century (the late Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China) and are still used today.
Unique, widely distributed and numerous Fujian Tulou buildings are an outstanding and representative architectural form created from long life experiences under unique historical and cultural backgrounds and particular natural and geographical conditions. With a large amount of objects and written records left from different times after the 11th century, the buildings reflect the emergence, innovation and development of this extraordinary art of raw earth buildings from the 11th century till now, provide abundant material evidence for the development and evolution of specific historical processes, cultural traditions, ethnic groups and folk customs, and have globally outstanding and universal historical and aesthetical value.
Among the world's various residential buildings, Fujian Tulou is known for its unique architectural shape, large size and exquisite structure. It is distinctive in the layout, and the choice of location which is integrated into nature. The abundant ethnic and cultural connotations and particular way of inhabitation make them unique and charming.
Fujian Tulou in the mountainous areas is a unique residential building complex made from rammed earth. It is a creative masterpiece in raw earth architecture. Fujian Tulou is mostly built by mountain side in rational layout. It absorbs the Fengshui principles in China's traditional architectural planning, meeting living and defense requirements of a family who live together. It cleverly makes use of narrow flat land in the mountains and local building materials such as raw earth, timber, cobblestone, etc. The many-storied building is itself a well-equipped, cost-effective and extremely solid system. It is both of high aesthetic value and marvelous defensive capabilities. Despite its seemingly plain appearance, its concept, design, shape (circular in most cases) and exquisite interior structure is in an elegant harmony with surrounding mountains and rivers, presenting a uniquely charming picture.ã€€
Fujian Tulou is an architectural achievement and historical witness under specific natural, geographical conditions and significant social changes and turmoil, based on oriental kinship-based ethics and the tradition that a clan lived together. The modernized lifestyle and process of urbanization is influencing the continuity of traditional lifestyle. A practical way needs to be explored to protect and preserve the Tulou Building Cluster now and in the future.
The nominated Fujian Tulou is a unique and beautiful example of raw earth residential buildings or systems widely distributed in Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces in China. Fujian Tulou is most widely distributed with the largest quantity and the richest variety. Approx. 3,000 Tulou buildings have been strictly confirmed. The properties presently proposed for inscription include ten buildings in Chuxi Tulou Cluster in Yongding County, seven buildings in Hukeng Tulou Cluster, four buildings in Gaobei Tulou Cluster and Yanxiang Lou, Zhenfu Lou, five buildings in Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster in Nanjing County, 13 buildings in Hekeng Tulou Cluster and Huaiyuan Lou and Hegui Lou, three buildings in Dadi Tulou Cluster in Hua'an County. They represent all known Tulou types and are of the best construction quality, highest aesthetic values, best preservation and management status with their authenticity and integrity least compromised.
Fujian Tulou has conformed to the oriental philosophy that regards the heaven and man as a whole and the so-called Fengshui theory of architectural planning. The indigenous construction material has been used, the site selection is either besides the mountain or along the river. Looking simple and rough in architectural style, the buildings are wonderfully elegant in form, appropriate in size and have complete functions. They present an idyllic picture in a charming country setting of mountains and rivers, and embody the harmonious and sustainable coexistence of human habitat and nature. Fujian Tulou is a perfect demonstration of a widely influential cultural tradition of a nation in a specific natural and geographical setting. It praiseworthily achieves a harmonious unity between residential buildings and natural environment, and is an architectural expression with singular features and aesthetic values. Though confronted with the modernized process, such kind of achievements in architecture and planning still have a charm and value we may not afford to overlook today.
Fujian Tulou was inscribed in the World Heritage List on 6th July on the 32nd Session of World Heritage Committee took place in Quebec City, Canada.