In October 2011 I was invited to Xiamen University to attend a Symposium on Hakka Tolou by Dr Ray Liang of West Virginia University.
The Tolou (literaly ‘Earth Buildings’) are massive rammed earth structures built by the Hakka peoples. The Hakka are an ethnic Chinese group, originally from northern China who moved to the current locations in waves around XXXX. The Tolou are large defensive structures home to many families and built from rammed earth. They were given World Heritage Site status in 2008
Following the conference we visited the World Heritage Hakka Tolou in Yongdin County.
Some Tolou are round and some are square, and the oldest in the area was constructed around 1308AD, with construction of the Tolou continuing well into the 20th century.
The King of Tolous is the largest Tolou in the area and has special status both within the Hakka community and as a World Heritage site. There are three concentric rind of timber structure within the rammed earth outer core. Dr Ray Liang has conducted extensive research at this Tolou, which was the subject of a History Channel documentary.
Unfortunately many of the smaller Tolou are in a state of abandonment and show signs of deterioration. We did find some examples of Tolou repair and a look to undertake research in to recording the rammed earth techniques of the older Hakka master builders to ensure that such knowledge and skills are not lost.
The Great Wall of China
Other rammed earth in China, for example Jiahoe and the Great Wall
For more information on earth building in China see Earth Building, History, Science and Conservation or contact me.