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Tulou – chinese earth dwellings

October 22, 2013

Luke Mahony


The Chinese term Tulou (tu – earth  lou – dwelling) refers to a style of building that in 2008 the UNESCO registered as World Heritage Site,  There were up to 20,000 tulou built. Set amongst rice, tea and tobacco fields the Tulou are earthen houses. Several storeys high, they are built along an inward-looking, circular or square floor plan as housing for up to 800 people each.


Fujian Tulou_1

They were built for defence purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. Housing a whole clan, the houses functioned as village units and were known as “a little kingdom for the family” or “bustling small city.” They feature tall fortified mud walls capped by tiled roofs with wide over-hanging eaves. The most elaborate structures date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.


The buildings were divided vertically between families with each disposing of two or three rooms on each floor. In contrast with their plain exterior, the inside of the tulou were built for comfort and were often highly decorated. They are inscribed as exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization, and, in terms of their harmonious relationship with their environment, an outstanding example of human settlement.

ImageThere were around 20,000 built and were mistaken for missile Silos during the cold war. They were built using clays, sand and LIME. They were built using simple slip forms.

Traditional formwork - please translate


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