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Who Invented Tulou?

Now there is no way of knowing who first invented the earthen buildings. Actually, the earthen buildings weren’t invented by just one person. The earthen buildings were the product of the Hakka people’s passion for history, their gifted imagination and the materials available to them. We can be sure that the first earthen building was rough and not well planned. Indeed, it might even have been laughable. But over the long years, the Hakka kept accumulating experience and making efforts to create these buildings. The rammed-earth technique became better and better and the buildings more and more tasteful. The earthen buildings also were built higher and higher, lager and larger, more and more beautiful—like an ugly duckling that finally turns into a swan.

As the crystallization of the Hakka culture, the earthen buildings did not emerge from nowhere. There were three preconditions for their coming into being: the mighty cohesive strength of a clan; a relatively peaceful living environment; and considerable financial resources.

After moving to the south from the war-torn Central Plains, the Hakka’s forebears now had a tranquil place to live. After several generations of growth and development, the Hakka population rapidly increased. They also amassed quite a lot of wealth. At this time, it was finally possible for them to consider how to build a massive home where the clan members could live together. It should embody the glory of the clan which was once a prominent one in the Central Plains, and represent the spirit of the entire present clan. How could they build a new home like this?

The first earthen building was built in the valley, and then, large numbers of earthen buildings sprang up like mushrooms after a rain...

In pursuit of the large courtyard style of house that flourished among their great ancestors in former days, they constructed the earthen buildings with local materials. Red soil was mixed with strips of bamboo, sand and stone, a watery glutinous rice paste, brown sugar and egg whites, and rammed into place. The Hakka people’s intelligence and wisdom, tradition and culture, energy and beliefs were also rammed into these buildings.

The earthen buildings are the Hakka people’s affectionate look back from the high mountains and dense forests of southwestern Fujian to their old home in the Central Plains. The earthen buildings are the Hakka people’s warm embrace of the land where they were dwelling. The earthen buildings are the Hakka people’s home, entrusted with all of their glory and dreams. The earthen buildings are a rare flower of the Hakka people’s culture, weathering the rain and opening in loneliness amid the mountains.