Explore the distinctive Tulou(Earthen Structure)

hongkeng tuloucover02

An amazing opportunity to experience the distinctive South Min culture in China

Fujian Province, which is sometimes shortened to “Min”, is located in southeast China and it takes up a large part of the southeast coast. Nearly 90% of Fujian’s land is mountainous, making it very suitable for growing tea and subtropical fruits.

South Min region refers, as its name implies, to an area in the south of Fujian province. It is the homeland of the Hoklo and Hakka people1. Both of these ethnic minorities speak their own dialects. We usually prefer to call them languages, rather than dialects, as they are so different from Mandarin that they are barely intelligible to the average Han Chinese person. Aside from their unique dialects, many of them also live in an unusual type of dwelling – a Tulou (meaning “Earthen Structure” in Chinese).

Tulou in Fujian

These peculiar structures are hidden up in the mountainous regions of Fujian, and entering one is like entering a different world, a peaceful and magical world.

Xiamen is the central city of South Min, and historically it was known as Amoy. It is an island city just about 1 kilometre away from Jinmen Island, which belongs to Taiwan. Xiamen was one of the first economic zones that were specially opened up to foreign investment in 1981. Nowadays, it is the most economically successful city in Fujian.

This fantastic journey will show you both the traditional and the modern sides of China.


During this tour, we will

  1. explore Tulou life in Southern Fujian;
  2. enjoy the extremely beautiful scenery in the mountainous areas of Southern Fujian;
  3. taste a variety of local teas as part of a traditional Fujian tea ceremony.
  4. visit a colonial-style island (optional);
  5. visit modern Xiamen City (optional);
  6. learn about the history of the Hakka and Hoklo people;
  7. try various kinds of local food and subtropical fruits.

We offer a 5-day tour exploring Tulou in the mountainous regions of Southern Fujian, plus an optional 2-day tour of Xiamen city as a potential add-on.

Taxia village

The highlights of this tour:

I. Marvel the Unique Local Architecture

  1. Qilou


Qilou, or Tong lau, appeared during the late 19th century, and are commonly found in the south of China in places such as Guangdong, Fujian, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

This style of building originated from Guangzhou, which was the most important commercial port for foreign trade during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is easy to see that the Qilou’s architectural style has been influenced by western architecture. The earliest Qilou were built by wealthy men to be stores in the business districts.

You will find various types of Qilou in Xiamen’s old business sector. It is a common sight in Southeast Asia. Most of the Qilou in Zhangzhou city were built in the traditional Chinese style, and did not adopt too many western features. This is because Zhangzhou is not as big a port as Xiamen so it was not subjected to as much western influence.


  1. Tulou (Earthen Structure)

Fujian Tulou04

A Tulou is a large enclosed construction that is usually circular or rectangular in shape and is used to house multiple families. There are more than 3,700 Tulou in the mountainous regions of South Min, which were all built by Hakka or Hoklo people. These large clay buildings are usually two- to five-storeys high and were built in such a way for defensive purposes. One Tulou is usually for one clan and the people of said clan would often conduct all of their social interactions inside of this “castle”. (Read more about Fujian Tulou)

Twelve Tulou have been selected by us to visit on this tour. All of them are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. We will also be given the opportunity to visit other Tulou in the nearby villages either together or separately.


  1. Traditional Chinese (Han-style) buildings


Hoklo and Hakka people were both originally Han people. They still maintain some aspects of traditional Han culture, including Han architecture. So in the Hakka villages you will not only find Tulou but also traditional Han-style buildings.



  1. Colonial-style buildings in Gulangyu Island

Gulangyu Island

Gulangyu is a small island that is just a few minutes’ drive away from the main island of Xiamen. It is the most famous tourist attraction in the Xiamen area because of its peaceful atmosphere and seemingly colonial style. From 1850 through to 1900, after the Opium War, many western traders settled on Gulangyu and built western style houses there. You may feel as though this small island is more like a western city rather than an Asian island.


  1. Modern skyscrapers in Xiamen City


As one of the most economically successful cities in China, Xiamen has many new and modern buildings. It serves as a typical example of the rapid development happening in certain Asian cities, but it is much more beautiful than many of these other Asian cities.



II. See the Amazing Land Views

Fujian is one of the most prominent tea growing provinces in China. There are tea fields on almost every mountain in Fujian. What’s more, since Fujian is a mountainous region, terraces must be carved into the hills and mountains in order to grow rice there.

Fujian Terrace


III. Try the Subtropical Fruits

You will find many fruits in Fujian that you will have only previously seen in books. Feel free to try them, so long as you have a strong stomach.



IV. Try the Local Food

The food in South Min is very similar to the food in Taiwan. The Hoklo people are also notoriously good at cooking seafood.

On top of that, if you love Chinese tea, Fujian is the province for you, since a wide array of top quality Chinese teas are grown there.


V. Taste the Various Local Teas

Hakka and Hoklo people are famous for producing high-quality teas. In the Tulou area, they make tea not only from tea leaves, but also from fruits and wild flowers. These types of tea have a light fragrance but a strong and sumptuous flavour that will linger in your mouth. Each type of tea has different medicinal properties according to its ingredients.

Tulou Tea


VI. Stay in Tulou Hotel

No one can gain a real insight into any culture by just visiting local attractions and villages. In order to give you an up-close and personal look at Hoklo and Hakka culture that you will never forget, we have chosen a real Tulou as our accommodation for the tour. Let’s explore real life in a Tulou together.

tulou hotel


The Location of Fujian in China:


Accommodation: We will stay in Tulou hotel in the mountainous regions of Fujian for 2 nights of the tour, and a 3-Star hotel in Zhangzhou for 1 night, a 4-Star hotel in Xiamen for 1 night of the tour (plus an extra 2 nights in a 4-star hotel should you decide to expand your tour of Xiamen).

Note: : There are no en-suite bathrooms in the Tulou hotels because of their design. All rooms will have a shared toilet and bathroom.

Food: We will provide 3 meals per day, consisting of local Chinese food, when staying in the mountainous region of Fujian. Breakfast and dinner will be provided in Xiamen city. Our guide will be on hand to help you order lunch in Xiamen.

Transportation: mini coach

Duration: 5 days and 5 nights (plus an extra, optional 2 day tour in Xiamen as specified above)

Dates of the tour:

10th of Dec to the 14th of Dec, 2017 (or the 16th of Dec, 2017 should you choose to add the extra 2 day tour of Xiamen to your trip)

Cost pp:

£680 (including: 5 nights of accommodation; all entrance fees to the attractions; all meals during the 3 days spent in the mountainous region of Fujian and 2 breakfast and 2 dinner in Xiamen; all transportation costs during designated tour times; the services of an English speaking guide; a pdf file with information about Tulou; help with any further travel in China following the tour).

£880 (all of the above plus: an extra 2 day tour in Xiamen, including the services of an English speaking guide and transportation costs during designated tour times; two extra night of accommodation in Xiamen; one extra dinner in Xiamen)

Single supp:£280

Please Note: the cost is based on the subscription of no less than 4 participants; the maximum number of participants being 10.


Day 1 Meeting up in Xiamen

We will meet you at the hotel in Xiamen. If you are planning on flying into Xiamen, the hotel is within the airport area and can be easily found. If you are planning on coming to Xiamen by train, you can either make your own way to the hotel or we will happily pick you up from the railway station and take you to the hotel. You need to book this service in advance.

Accommodation: 4-star hotel near Xiamen airport

Day 2 Tianluokeng Group of Tulou

In the morning we will head out towards the most famous group of Tulou – Tianluokeng, or “Four Dishes and one Soup” Tulou.

Tianluokeng consists of three circular Tulou and one square-shaped Tulou, which, from above, resembles the common layout for a family dinner. Its unique appearance earned it the name “four dishes and one soup”.

First we will enjoy the panoramic view from up the mountain, and then we will travel down the mountain to visit the village. Although Tianloukeng village is the most famous Tulou village, most of its visitors tend to just view it from a distance, up on the mountain, and do not enter the village itself. Unlike them, we will get to experience a real Tulou village by going there directly. Read more about Tianluokeng Village.


We will sample the local tea in a Fujian-style tea ceremony. Before you get the wrong idea, this isn’t a luxury experience! You’ll get to enjoy drinking tea in the same traditional way that the locals do, looking out at the lofty mountains while listening to the folk tales of the Hakka people.

Accommodation: Tulou Hotel in Tianluokeng

Day 3 Yuchang Lou, Taxia Village and Hongkeng village

On the way to Hongkeng village, we will come across another very famous Tulou, Yuchang Lou, which is particularly amazing because all of its pillars are made out of plum wood. It is also the tallest Tulou in existence. Yuchang Lou is in a small, tranquil and traditional village without tourists.

Fujian Tulou, Yuchang lou

Then we will go to explore the village of Taxia, which is famous for the seamless way in which the Tulou blend in with their natural surroundings. Read more about Taxia Village.

Accommodation: Tulou Hotel in Taxia Village

Day 4 Yunshuiyao Village, Zhangzhou

We will spend the whole morning in Yunshuiyao village soaking in the peace and beauty of the mountainous countryside.

Yunshuiyao is village with hundreds of years of history behind it, particularly with reference to the Jian clan. It is reminiscent of the legendary “Shangri-la” in appearance and atmosphere. Most of the buildings in the village are clay houses which were built during the Qing Dynasty, including a big Ancestral Hall2 for the Jian family. There are several banyan trees on the riverside that are hundreds of years old. One of them is the biggest banyan tree in Fujian Province and this banyan tree has some branches that are more than 30 meters long. Read more about Yunshuiyao Village.


We will visit two Tulou, which are near to Yunshuiyao village.

Huaiyuan Lou is considered a perfect example of the round-style of Tulou, while Heguilou is the best example of the rectangular-style of Tulou (more details about these two types of Tulou can be found in the article entitled “Fujian Tulou”). Another distinguishing feature of Hegui Lou is that the whole compound has been built on marshland. Isn’t that amazing?

In the late afternoon, we will head for Zhangzhou.

Accommodation: 3-star hotel in Zhangzhou

Day 5 Xiamen

We will visit the Ming-Qing Streets in Zhangzhou (streets which were built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties).

We will return to Xiamen in the late afternoon.

Accommodation: 4-star hotel in Xiamen


beachDay 6 Xiamen City – Qilou, Zengcuo An and the Seaside

Siming district is the business centre of Xiamen Island and there you will find many typical South Min-style buildings, known as Qilou.

Zengcuo An is a small village on the seaside. All of the villagers used to be fishermen. Nowadays it serves as a typical example of a coastal village in Xiamen. All of the houses have been changed so that their architectural style incorporates more western features. However, you will still find some of their original, local features are intact. You will also find all of the traditional South Min style dishes and local subtropical fruits in Zengcuo An. They are all worth trying so don’t forget to sample some local delicacies whilst you’re there.

At the seaside, there is a long plank road that runs alongside the beach, which you can take a walk along if you like. Or you may prefer to just sunbathe on the soft, white sand.

Read more about Xiamen.

Accommodation: 4-star hotel in Xiamen

Gulangyu IslandDay 7 Gulangyu Island 

We will go to Gulangyu Island by ferry. After we have visited the buildings of major interest on the island, you will be given the opportunity to explore the island and enjoy some of the local attractions by yourself. Read more about Gulang Island.

Accommodation: 4-star hotel in Xiamen




  1. Hoklo people and Hakka People:

From the West Jin Dynasty (307-12 BCE), there were several great immigrations from central China to Fujian, among them the one took place in the late Tang Dynasty (7th-8th century) was on a particular large scale. Those who settled down in southeast of Fujian Province became the Hoklo people. During the Song Dynasty, because of the conquest by the Jin ethnic group in northern China, many people fled from central China again, bringing with them the culture and language, and finally settled down in Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi. These people formed the Hakka group.

  1. Ancestral Hall:

It is a kind of temple for a family or a clan to worship their ancestors.



Please Note: You can choose to stick to this tour entirely, or you can just incorporate it as part of your wider plans to travel across China. We can provide you with information and help you with any other travel plans you may have if you need us to. We also provide a hotel booking service and a flight or train booking service for all of our members’ traveling in China outside of the 5 designated days of the tour. We will also provide a consultancy service for you, which will help you to plan your journey across China and give you useful tips on traveling in China.

We hope that you will have a wonderful time traveling with us! 

For more information, please contact us at: info@asiaculturaltravel.co.uk.

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