A round Hakka mud building 土楼 is indeed fascinating. That’s why whenever we mention Fujian mud buildings, a curious round fortress resembling a curled up pangolin would come to mind. The locals often to boast that there are 20,000 of such buildings around. Actually, the number is much smaller – just over a thousand and in reality, they come in all shapes and sizes – not just round.
There are square and rectangular tulous 土楼. There are oval-shaped tulous, D-shaped tulous, octagonal tulous and there are even those that resemble an amphitheatre. There are those with a spacious central courtyard. There are also those with concentric layers of inner walls, turning the whole interior into maze. Touring the tulous is an interesting experience. Staying inside one of them is even more exciting.
Most tourists want the “class” and creature comforts of a hotel. Rather than making a trip to the tulous a day trip, I decided to stay a night in a tulou, perhaps to see if they’re really haunted. Fuyu Lou – located in Hongkeng Village 洪坑村, Yongding County永定县, is a uniquely shaped square and stepped tulou with a low two storey building forming the wall of the entrance facing a stream, two symmetrical 3-storey buildings forming the side walls and a massive 5-storey building forming the rear wall. It thus has an interesting stepped appearance. The enclosed area was not left bare. There is a small 2-storey building right in the centre.
Fuyu Lou was completed in 1880 by 3 brothers bearing the surname Lim. The current owner is a descendant. I don’t know his full name, but I call him Ah Wen. The enterprising young man is an avid explorer like me and was enterprising and thoughtful enough to have furnished some of their rooms to offer accommodation to tourists, leaving most of the ambience and fixtures intact.
Having great confidence in my ability to climb stairs, Ah Wen gave me a room on the highest floor. It was also the Young Master’s Room. The room was rather small, but it was very clean, comfortable and came with a tiny attached bathroom. Being the young master has its privileges.
Today’s tulous are noisy places in the daytime when armies of tourists from Xiamen descend on this place. As night falls, the crowds melt away. Like an abandoned mistress, Hongkeng Village with all its simple charms begin to surface.
Every floor on the 5-storey building comes with a hall with a balcony that opens into the central courtyard. On one floor, there would be a mahjong table. Another floor would look like it has been prepared for a wedding. Yet another floor would resemble a study.
At a time before computers, before parents take their work home and before kids are addicted to video games, this was where families gathered for some quality time. It’s a pity that these unexciting but cosy spaces are abandoned by the young nowadays.
A view from the hall on the top floor gives a better picture of what this building looks like. This is half of the building. The other half on the right looks identical. Right in front is the low 2-storey building. On the left is the 3-storey building. There is an identical 3-storey building on the right side.
It’s a pity I’ve not planned to stay longer. After you’ve seen all there is to see, it’s time to keep calm and feel the place. The glowing red lanterns, the ticking grandfather’s clock, the lonely poet, his tea, his book and his pen and his thoughts that go unheard. As a crowd-hater, I’m so fortunate that I don’t enjoy the same things that the crowds enjoy.