'Black UFOs' In Fujian Mountains

Updated: 2007-05-16 08:54

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Dotted among the dark green mountains and blue waters in the south west Province of Fujian in South China are densely concentrated blocks of oddly shaped buildings. American researchers once described these building complexes as like "like something from another planet", Japanese scholars called them "black UFOs", while architectural experts praises them as "the Potala Palace in Fujian". The CIA sent intelligence agents to spy on this "suspicious Chinese nuclear base" in the 1960s but found out that this "nuclear base" was just tulou, or literally earth buildings, where the Fujian Hakka people have lived for over a thousand years!

At the Model Exhibition of World Ancient Architectural Elaborate Works in April 1984, Zhencheng Building, an earth building in Yongding County in Fujian, caused a stir and was called "a worldwide unparalleled legendary residential building". In February 2004 UNESCO formally granted Fujian Hakka earth buildings World Cultural Heritage status.

Hakka: the guest people

Readers' comments:

Spiritrace:I saw similar structures in Northern Ireland which dated back to the 1st millennium BC.

Chiaike i like buidings like this. so many people living in the same building, and the most important thing is that you can actually know your neighbors!

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The Hakka people are not an ethnic minority. They settled in Fujian from the Central Plains of China over a long period from the Qin (221-207 BC) to the Song (960-1279) dynasties. Self-identified as Hakka, or guest people, these Han immigrants have retained much of their ancestors' lifestyle and culture and have absorbed the best parts of other ethnic groups' cultures. After more than 1,000 years of struggle they formed their own original folk customs including festivals, food, drink, costume, education and religion, and most unique of all - earth buildings.

Strange looking multi-function buildings

There are many different types of earth buildings in the Hakka area. While the most common are round or square, others are rectangular, D-shaped, semi-circular or in the shape of horseshoes, umbrellas, windmills, or Ba Gua (an eight-sided diagram derived from the I-Ching - the Chinese book of divination. Each side represents a different aspect of life such as wealth, career, and marriage).

The earth buildings are usually three to five stories high. Inside the entrance is a huge central courtyard onto which all the doors of the rooms and inner windows open.

The buildings are used for a variety of purposes - for public activities, as ancestral temples and for residential dwelling. The rooms on the ground floor are used as kitchens and dining rooms, those on the second floor are for storage, and third floor rooms are used as bedrooms. The rooms on each floor are identical with an open round hallway in front of the rooms. Each floor usually has four staircases and a typical room is about 10 - 13 sq m, with larger rooms around 15 sq m.