The Last Decaying Forgotten Colosseum Homes In China
The last decaying forgotten Colosseum homes in China urgently need restoration works and people must understand the importance behind preserving these unique architectural and cultural treasures.
China’s tulou buildings are in a very rapid process of decay, and UNESCO and the country’s government need to take urgent measures in order to save them.
Tulou houses are unique to southeast China, being constructed in the Fujian province, and dating back to the Song Dynasty (960 AD – 1279 AD). The Chinese ethnic group of Hakka people were the first to introduce this type of architecture as a living space, after finally settling down in this province of China.
These forgotten Colosseum-like houses functioned as villages and were considered a family, or a self-sustaining settlement by outsiders. They usually stand 3 or 4 stories high and they can be visited through a single gated entrance.
“The walls were extremely thick, and there would be water tanks above the gate because in ancient times invaders or burglars would set fire to the gate,” explains Lin Weicheng, an architecture student at Xiamen University.
“It’s also said that there were underground tunnels to escape through,” Lin Weicheng adds.
“They had water wells, and bigger tulou would have little farm areas with vegetables and livestock. In some big tulou the reserves could last for two or three months.”
Sadly, today, the tulou houses are an “endangered species” with more and more of them being abandoned by their former residents. Up until now, 46 of the largest tulou homes have been listed as World Heritage sites by UNESCO, but there are approximately 3,000 others who are left to decay.
These tulou houses are almost completely empty, with the new generation moving to China’s bigger cities in order to pursue financial stability.
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As described by UNESCO the protected tulou homes are “exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living.” Besides having a defensive military role, the tulou constructions also served as a place to bring the community together.
“Housing a whole clan, the houses functioned as village units and were known as ‘a little kingdom for the family’ or ‘bustling small city’,” explains UNESCO.