April 25, 2012

0184 CHINA (Fujian) - Fujian Tulou (UNESCO WHS)

In 1985, a KH22 American spy satellite, mandated by President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative to stealthily drifted above southeast China, had spotted 1,500 "unidentified huge mushroom-like buildings in Fujian province… which are extremely similar to nuclear equipment". Wow, hundreds of missile silos scattered throughout the mountain ranges of Fujian province wasn’t a good news for White House. Fearing an impending nuclear attack at the hands of Red China, the U.S. Secretary of Defense immediately deployed a crack unit of CIA spies in China to investigate. They returned to the Pentagon and reported: "Those aren’t missiles, dumbass, those are mud!" It was about the buildings from the image, called tulou.

A tulou (earthen building) is a traditional communal residence in the Fujian province of Southern China, usually a circular configuration surrounding a central shrine. These vernacular structures were occupied by clan groups. The Fujian Tulou is a small and specialized subgroup of tulou, and are known for their unique shape, large scale, and ingenious structure. There are more than 20,000 tulou in southern Fujian, but only about 3,000 of them (15%) are Fujian Tulou. Sounds complicated? It really is, because the term was (and still is) used different, so he confusions don't missing when is spoken about these structures. In other words, Fujian Tulou is a type of Chinese rural dwellings of the Hakka and Minnan people in the mountainous areas in southeastern Fujian, built mostly between the 12th and the 20th centuries.

The architecture of Fujian tulou followed the Chinese dwelling tradition of "closed outside, open inside" concept: a very thick enclosure wall (most commonly rectangular or circular) with living quarters around the peripheral (between three and five stories high) and a common courtyard inside. A small building is located at the center, with open front served as a hall for ancestry worshipping, festivals, meetings, weddings, funerals and other ceremonial functions. Each tulou housing up to 80 families. The fortified outer structures are formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other readily available materials, to form walls up to 1.8m thick, and usually have only one main gate, reinforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level has gun holes for defensive purposes.

A total of 46 Fujian Tulou sites, including Chuxi Tulou Cluster, Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster, Hekeng Tulou Cluster, Gaobei Tulou Cluster, Dadi Tulou Cluster, Hongkeng Tulou Cluster, Yangxian Lou, Huiyuan Lou, Zhengfu Lou and Hegui Lou, have been inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, as "exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization [in a] harmonious relationship with their environment".

The buildings which can be seen on my postcard (for which I must thank Wei Xu) are part of Chuxi Tulou Cluster, located in Yongding County, Xiayang township, Chuxi village. Jiqinglou, the largest round tulou, and also the oldest in this cluster, built in 1419 during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty, consists of two concentric rings: the outer ring (four storeys tall, with 53 rooms on each level, and 72 staircases), and the inner ring (a one-storey building).

Unlike other housing types around the world with architecture reflecting social hierarchy, Fujian Tulou exhibits its unique characteristic as a model of community housing for equals. All rooms were built the same size with the same material, same exterior decoration, same style of windows and doors. Regarding his defensive role, Fujian Tulou are structures immune not only to arrows and gunfire, but even to cannons fire. In 1934, a group of uprising peasants of Yongding County occupied a tulou to resist the assault of the army, which fired 19 cannon shots at that tulou, but made only a small dent on the outside wall.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of a China-France joint issue of 1998, which contain two stamps per country, the Palais du Louvre in Paris and the Imperial Palace (or Forbidden City) in Beijing, designed by Claude Andreotto.

Sender: Wei Xu (direct swap)
Sent from Suzhou (China), on 26.02.2012

1 comment: