Earth Towers of the Hakkas

The Earth Tower of Hakka has a long history. As early as one thousand years ago, some of the original Hakka migrated and settled at the sparse Yongding area. In order to protect themselves against bandits and wild beasts, they used local materials to build tall, multi-storey circular earthen buildings where a whole family or clan could live in. These are the earth towers that we see today.

These buildings were constructed using fire-resistive material and therefore practically impregnable. They are spacious and they are made up of different shapes like square, rectangular, semi-circular and round.

The ones that are round in shape are the most famous. They are divided into three classes of sizes namely, small, medium and big. The small ones are usually 2 to 3 stories tall with a single ring and have 21 to 28 rooms. The medium dwellings are usually 3 to 4 stories tall with a large inner open space, which come in single ring or double rings and could contain 30 to 40 rooms. The larger round buildings are usually 4 to 5 stories tall consisting of as many as three rings and could house about 42 to 58 rooms. Finally, the very small round buildings have about 12 to 18 rooms.

Most of the round buildings are three stories high with a diameter of 70-80 meters. It is a 'group-oriented' residence, usually with one main entrance. Its wall is usually around 1 meter thick. The main entrance door is padded with iron sheet and is locked by 2 horizontal wood bars. The wooden bars retract into the walls in order to open the door.

Inside the entrance is a huge central courtyard where all the doors of the rooms and inner windows open facing it. Normally, the rooms at the ground level, except the hall and the staircases, are used as kitchens and dining rooms.

The rooms on the second floor are used for storage and those on the third level are used as bedrooms. The rooms at each level are identical. In front of each room, there is an open round hallway and usually there are 4 staircases to move from one level to another.

While the round building is fairly large, it has an inner ring, which is like a round building within a round building. The round buildings that were built earlier than the 15th century also had another function, that of counter siege. It is said that during the Ming Dynasty, Japanese pirates who intruded the coastal areas, always leave the Hakka's Earth Buildings area alone.

The formation of the Earth buildings amplify the wisdom and creativeness of the ancestors of the Hakkas settlers in Yongding County. It closes the gaps between Chinese architecture history and the world architecture history and is regarded as a miraculous wonder by thousands of experts, scholars and tourists who have been enchanted by its beauty.


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