China's Remote Fortresses Lose Residents, Gain Tourists
Massive earthen structures once sheltered clans from warlords and bandits. Can they be prototypes for "green" buildings?
HEKENG, China—Count the tulou.
It started like a game. How many of these strange, fortress-like structures could I tally from a vehicle window? They were so big, looming like spaceships in the countryside of Fujian Province in southeastern China. Every village seemed to have at least one, two, more.
An obsession grew. I would ask to be left off at the edge of villages tucked between hills, and I would start walking and counting.
In Hekeng, a place with several hundred residents, I ticked off 13 tulou. (Tu lou means "earthen structure" in Mandarin, a very modest definition, like describing a coliseum as a stone circle.) The buildings look medieval, with high mud-brown walls, tiny windows in the top stories, and usually