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Tidbits of Inspiration: Home Sweet Clan Home

March 31, 2011

I’d never heard of the Tulou of China before, but now that I have, I can’t help but find them fascinating.

If you are like me, and had never heard of them before, allow me to summarize.  A tulou is a type of communal housing: a large structure housing an entire clan of people.  It’s built around a central courtyard, facing inward, with earthen walls facing outward to defend against raiders and enemies. They are designed as concentric rings (circular or square) and rise up to four stories on the outside. But the description doesn’t do it justice. You need to see it to understand why reading about them inspired me:

A Tulou in Fujian

A Tulou in Fujian, by Fon Zhou (CC-BY-NC)

Another Tulou

A Tulou in Fujian, by ryanocerosk (CC-BY-NC-SA)


One more picture of a tulou

A Tulou in Fujian, by ksquare77 (CC-BY-NC-ND)

You begin to see why I found the idea of the tulou inspiring?  Click on the photos to go to a  “Fotopedia” page with a slideshow of more images of tulous.  There’s something oddly romantic about these archaic dwellings that housed entire clans, centered as they often were around altars to the ancestors.  There’s definitely something inspiring if you enjoy fantasy or historical fiction and period romance.  The place just screams with story.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2011 12:26 pm

    I remember seeing these in a documentary on China. They are very impressive structures. It’s kind of sad that many are not being maintained anymore, but I can see the appeal of modern toilets and showers.

    Definitely inspiration. Imagining living under the same roof with my entire family clan… there would be so much potential for trouble… LOL

    • March 31, 2011 1:04 pm

      Yes, from a perspective of modern convenience… I can completely understand why one would want to leave these to move to a modern apartment.

      But that they exist – that’s pretty cool. It seems to me that someone should be working to preserve them. Sort of like historical Williamsburg or something like that, where people/actors “live” there as a way of demonstrating what life was like on the way-back machine, for tourists (and with actual modern conveniences conveniently tucked away out of line-of-sight from the tourists, or some-such). Either way, there’s a do-able model of preservation in there somewhere, I think. And yes… sooooo much trouble and drama.

  2. March 31, 2011 12:57 pm

    Hi, Stephen. First time on your blog, here, and… wow, those tolous are really something. Beautiful, in a way. I can only imagine what they look like at night with the lanterns all aglow.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • March 31, 2011 1:06 pm

      Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! I like to share the little cool things I come across from time-to-time. Yes, one of the things I immediately imagined upon seeing some of these pictures is what it must be like at night, the air buzzing, the people talking excitedly, some music playing somewhere, the lanterns all lit. It seems… magical.

  3. March 31, 2011 12:59 pm

    Or tulous. My bad.

    • March 31, 2011 1:08 pm

      No bad. I’m certain I misspelled it at least once, somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. Something about the word makes me want to pronounce it “Tulo” instead of “Tolou”.

  4. March 31, 2011 1:35 pm

    It’s a tricky word! lol

  5. April 1, 2011 11:33 am

    Fascinating. Simply fascinating. How neat to live in one of these! That, or old hat. Depends on just how long you’ve lived there.

  6. April 3, 2011 12:19 am

    I was keeping notes for my Mount Huashen story set in China and loved the variety of ways that families lived. These pictures are very interesting.

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