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There are three main areas of tulou ('earth buildings' 土楼 tǔlóu /too-loh/) areas in Fujian: Nanjing Tulou, Yongding Tulou, and Hua'an Tulou. Each area has similar earthen buildings, but they are distinct from each other for many reasons.
This will help you distinguish the highlights of each area and help you know how to visit them…
Nanjing Tulou Area retains its original appearance and it's a good place to get close to the earthen building culture. The following are the most famous earthen buildings at Nanjing:
Tianluokeng Earthen Building Cluster (田螺坑土楼群) is a neat Olympic-rings-shaped group of five earthen buildings: one square building and four round buildings around it. Many travelers call it "four dishes and one soup".
Yuchang Lou (裕昌楼) was built in 1308 and is one of the oldest existing Tulou. This five-story earthen building is most famous for its tilted pillars. The most extreme is slanted at 15-degree angle. Yuchanglou has been like this for more than 600 years and remains intact today. Because of its uniqueness, it is one of the most interesting buildings in the area.
Hegui Earthen Building (和贵楼) was built on a swamp over 200 years ago. It covers an area of 1,300 sq. m. (14,000 sq. ft.), has 5 stories, and is 21.5 meters high. It is amazingly stable considering it was built over swampland. With 220-pine logs as its base, this building looks just like a huge boat anchored in a quagmire.
Huaiyuan Earthen Building (怀远楼) is the most intricate earthen building. This typical round building has the best-preserved and ornate architectural features. The most attractive part of the building is the Sishi Shi (斯是室 Sīshì Shì /srr-shrr shrr/ 'This-Is Room'), the family study. The carved beams and painted rafters are very beautiful.
Yongding Tulou Area has more big earthen buildings than Nanjing, and its tourism is better developed than Nanjing, but it can be crowded. It is mainly composed of four earthen building clusters: Hongkeng, Gaobei, Chuxi, and Nanxi. And each cluster has its own unique features.
Zhencheng Buidling (振成楼) was built in 1912. Its outer ring has 48 rooms on each of its four floors. The rooms are divided into four quarters according to the Eight Trigrams with firewalls in between. The multi-ring concentric architectural structure is a mix of Chinese and Western architecture, making the building a gem of round earthen buildings.
Kuiju Building (奎聚楼) has a high front and low back and a neat and exquisite layout. It contains numerous valuable sculptures, colored figurines, paintings, and calligraphic works. It's dubbed the Potala Palace of earthen buildings.
Fuyu Building (福裕楼) features an orderly structure, a neat layout, and a strong emphasis on symmetry. The construction is perfectly adapted to the topography of the slopes behind the building, making it an awe-inspiring sight.
Rusheng Building (如升楼) was built in 1901 and is the smallest one of its kind ever found. It has a diameter of 17 meters and three floors with just 16 rooms. It's a corridor-style single-ring round building.
Gaobei Earthen Building Cluster (高北土楼群) is about 5 kilometers from the Hongkeng cluster. It's smaller, but it has the most famous "Tulou King" — Chengqi Building.
Chengqi Building (承启楼) is almost three hundred years old and is made up of four concentric circular buildings. This King of Earthen Buildings has 400 rooms and used to house 80 families, totaling more than 600 people in its most prosperous days.
Qiaofu Building (侨福楼) is at the west side of Chengqi Building. The construction was mainly supported by the owners' overseas brothers. Uniquely, there are four Roman-style columns in front of the ancestors' hall. Eleven doctors were born there, so this building is also called "Building of Doctors".
The Chuxi Earthen Building Cluster (初溪土楼群) in Chuxi Village consists of five round buildings and many square buildings in the surrounding hills. Three massive round buildings and one square building are near the river, hidden among the tall hills and lush vegetation like a treasure waiting to be discovered.
Chuxi is considered the most picturesque earthen building cluster in Yongding County.
Nanxi Earthen Building Cluster (南溪土楼群) near Hukeng Town snakes through the green mountains and lush foliage. Earthen Buildings dot the vast fields like pearls scattered among the verdant mountains and green streams, creating a magnificent and elegant sight.
Hua'an Tulou Area only has 68 earthen buildings. It's not as famous as Nanjing and Yongding. The most famous earthen buildings are Eryi Building, Yusan Building, and Nanyang Building.
Eryi Bulding (二宜楼) was built near the mountains and creeks. There are two wells in the center of the building, called Yin Fountain and Yang Fountain, forming a Taoist icon. The temperatures of these two fountains are different! The highlights of this building are the wall paintings and wood carvings.
Yusan Building (雨伞楼 'Umbrella Building') has a most unique roof like an umbrella. Most earthen buildings have a lower inner ring and higher outer ring, but Yusan Building's inner ring is higher than the outer, making a dome.
We recommend you combine your tulou tour with Xiamen sights like Gulangyu Island. Take at least two days to see the amazing earthen buildings and China's garden-by-the-sea city. See our recommended tours below for inspiration:
Our tours can be customized according to your interests and requirements. If you're not interested in the above tours, just let us create your own tulou tour!