The southeastern province of Fujian is known for its abundant oolong tea plantations and strategic position on the historic Maritime Silk Road. It is also a large exporter of Hokkien and Hakka culture and food to Taiwan and Southeast Asia. At its southern tip, where mountain terrains meet the Taiwan Strait, is the city of Xiamen.
Directly west of Xiamen in the counties of Nanjing and Yongding, mountain ranges and dense forests embrace rows of tulou buildings. As the native residences of the Hakka community, the word 'tulou' translates to 'earthen buildings,' in reference to the ram bricks used to build these monumental compounds.
Since their structure remains mostly unchanged, the tulou has come to exemplify the ongoing transmission of Hakka lifestyle. During the 13th century, the Hakkas fled from the conflict and turmoil in northern China to settle in discreet mountainous areas, known today as the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi. The defense mentality is reflected in the tulou's fortress-like structure: impenetrable walls, a single entrance and no windows at ground level. Traditionally, each building houses members of the same family and can accommodate up to 800 people.
Image via Wikipedia
Like the hutongs in Beijing and lilongs in Shanghai, younger generations of Hakka are gradually moving out of tulous to pursue a modern lifestyle in developed cities. Upon your visit, however, a small number of elderly Hakkas, who continue to safeguard the mother tongue and ways of life will meet and greet you. Hire a Hakkaspeaking guide, book a homestay and sample local Hakka cuisine to acquaint yourself with this fading way of life.
The Island of Kulangsu
Xiamen consists of a main city island and a handful of satellite islets, among which sits the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kulangsu. Occupying an area equivalent to 10 People's Squares in Shanghai, Kulangsu is home to nearly 900 listed historic buildings with European, local Hokkien and 'Amoy Deco' designs. The islet's mosaic urban fabric was mostly conceived post 1903, after Xiamen became a trade port like many coastal towns at that time.
Thanks to government protection that restricted development projects off the shores, Kulangsu's buildings and alleyways remain largely intact. In addition to a tangible material heritage, the islet is also known for its vibrant musical tradition. There is a higher rate of pianos per household here than anywhere else in the world, and you can attend recitals (classical and Chinese) held at the local concert hall every night of the year.
Image via Wikipedia
Kulangsu is accessed via a 30-minute ferry from the main island of Xiamen. With a ban The southeastern province of Fujian is known for its abundant oolong tea plantations and strategic position on the historic Maritime Silk Road. It is also a large exporter of Hokkien and Hakka culture and food to Taiwan and Southeast Asia. At its southern tip, where mountain terrains meet the Taiwan Strait, is the city of Xiamen. on automobiles, and visitor numbers controlled at 35,000 per day, you're guaranteed a traffic-free, relaxed stay. It takes approximately two hours to walk around the entire island, while the electronic shuttle bus (the only exception to the no-car rule) is a viable alternative. As you meander along the seaside or alleyways, stop by street vendors who whisk up signature Hokkien dishes such as pan-fried clam omelet, fried bean curd rolls and sumptuous tropical fruits. Should you wish to stay on the islet overnight, there are around 50 hotels and boutique inns offering comfortable options for the family.
To book a 5 day, 4 night trip to Fujian from RMB4,425 per person, scan the QR code below and complete your details with the subject line 'Fujian.'
[Cover image via Wikipedia]