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Yongding: Hakka Minority Buildings N Village Info

Hey Hey and a Mega Huge G´Day to you The first thing I´ll say in this entry is this: `wouldya farken look at that! Wouldya farken look at that!´ Sorry I had to let it out. That was the first thing I said when I got out of the mini van. Another dream came true today. I got to visit not only one but many Earth Buildings. Infact I went to villages with several in each. I remember years ago I first saw an Earth Building on a documentary and was awed by their size and the fact that each houses a little community. Years went by and Earth Buildings slipped my mind until I moved to Fujian Province nearing two months ago. I was reading the Good Book to see what Fujian had to offer and I nearly threw the book through the window I was so surprised. I was now living a train and a bus ride away from the Hakka Minority Peoples Earth Buildings!

'EARTH BUILDINGS' - Earth Buildings are found in the rural province border areas of Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong Provinces. In the southwest of Fujian Province there are hundreds of them scattered throughout hundreds of villages. Built out of earth and wood and most without a single nail. They have been proven to be fire, damp, earthquake and heat proof. Some are round and consist of one to five rings. Some are square or squares within squares. Others are half moons or spirals but it doesn't matter what their shape is, all are simply put...unfreakinbloodybelievable! The Culin Building in Nanjing County - The smallest found so far. It has an interior of only nine meters. Fengzou Juening Building in Pinghe Country - The largest found so far. It has a diameter of seventy seven meters. Earth Buildings range from two to five levels in height. The Legui Building in Nanjing County - Is the highest found so far. It is five stories high and measures 21.5 meters in height. The Fuxin Builing in Yongding County - Is the oldest found so far. It was built in the Tang Dynasty. The widest is known as the 'Eight Diagram Fort' which is actually many small Earth Buildings built in a spiral that forms five rings. Ok, to help form a realistic view (until I get time to download the pictures) think of a sports stadium. Aussies think of Melbourne´s MCG, of course not as large but the same general shape even with the roofs that part cover each level. Picture a smaller MCG made of earth the outer ring can be made up of eighty to two hundred rooms depending on how many storeys high it is. The lowest level is made up of kitchens. Yes, each family has their own kitchen. The next level is living areas and the top is usually sleeping areas. I guess they could easily differ between buildings but the ones I got to visit followed the same simple plan. What happens in the area within the outer wall (the footy field area) is different between buildings. Some have a simple cobble stone area, others have one, two or three smaller rings full of rooms. Others have a simple 'Local Temple', others have several buildings the same size as normal houses and some use the space for animal shelters. All will have a Temple, usually it will be at the far end of the 'footy field'. All will have one or two wells somewhere within. No matter what the construction plan is, when one of these buildings come into view you will say with a slack jaw..What The....! My driver thought I was crazy. They really do take your breath away when you see their actual realistic size. A car or a man is dwarfed by them. When you are driving on a hill and you see several of them together in a village far below you can't help but stop the car and take several minutes to simply stare at their size. Nearly all of them still house little communities. You are invited to walk freely amongst the little society within and watch elderly women washing and cooking foods, children run around screaming 'Hellowww' when you approach. In the smaller much less visited villages some of the children actually screamed and ran away from me crying. Chickens, geese, ducks, dogs and cats run around the place squawking and making what ever animal noise they make. You can watch as water is drawn from the well and babies are fed and the old and young sit to play Mahjong. Men and women still roam around the place dressed in their Chairman Mao uniform. It really is an amazing experience and one I would recommend. ************************************************** Here's my run down. I boarded the bus in Xiamen at 8:50am and arrived in Yongding at 12:30pm. It was an easy drive, no bad roads as most of it was on tolled freeways. My driver was a horney bastard and needed surgery to remove his hand from the buses horn. What I couldn't understand was the fact that all traffic was going in the same direction as a lot of it was on freeways. He for some reason thought that everyone wanted to know that he was going to pass them and the speed we were going we actually passed nearly everything that moved. When I arrived in Yongding I thought of finding a hotel but the time it would waste got the better of me and instead I gathered several minivan drivers together and done my best to get the best deal. Being alone I was pretty much buggered when it came to a good deal. I tried everything I could, even the 'walk away I'm going to find a hotel' thing. They simply laughed and I'm sure said, mate your still going to be alone when you come back. So the best I could do was 200 for the rest of the day. BUGGER! Our first destination was the 'Chuxi Earth Building Group'. It took about an hour and a bit to reach, mainly because I had the driver stopping in little villages along the way so I could see some of the unvisited Earth Buildings. My driver thought I was a bloody idiot when I saw my first one. I got out of the car and began jumping up and down on the spot yelling 'fark fark fark, wouldya look at that!' By the time we got to Chuxi I was more sedate with my jumping up and down and simply ran from place to place taking photos. This group cost 50 Yuan to get into but somehow my driver got me in for 30 Yuan even with a 50 Yuan ticket. Cool! This group consists of five circular buildings and several square buildings. The largest circular building has been turned into a 'Hakka Museum'. It is easy to spend an hour here walking from room to room and it is easy to spend many hours in this village. So if you have more than one village to visit, keep an eye on the time! My next destination was the 'Zhenfu Building' near Hekeng Town. Mate this was so awesome and in such beautiful condition. Built beside a pretty little river with a stone bridge and an earth village on the other side of the river. It was a stunning sight and had me jumping for joy at the sight of it. The Zhenfu Builiding was 40 Yuan to visit but driver got me in for 30 Yuan. The third destination was supposed to be the Gaoton Township or the Earth Buildings in the village of Quijong but we never reached them. Instead we went from little village to little village. The light was fading and photos were now out of the question so I just jumped around little villages saying 'fark fark fark, wouldya look at that' instead. I had by now given up for the day and was going to return the following day on local buses but my driver insisted we make one more stop. This was to the 'Prince' of all the Earth Buildings, the 'Zhencheng Building' in Hongkeng Village. This is the one in the Lonely Planet and it is best left for daylight hours. When we arrived the sun was just about gone but there was still enough light to allow a few more jumps from me. I had told him I was going to stay in Yongding but soon he returned with a lovely girl who could speak English and I found out that you can actually stay here. The entrance fee for the Zhencheng Building is 50 Yuan and I had to pay the full fee here. Bugger! This village is made up of many square, round and half moon Earth Buildings. If you only have time to visit one village this is the one to visit. There will be no need to hire a driver as you can access this village from the Yongding Bus Station by local buses. I think they now cost 15 Yuan and take about an hour or so to get there. OK, Where to Stay... DO NOT STAY IN YONGDING! My LP is over five years old now and gives no information that you can stay in some of the villages. You can, maybe the latest guides offer this information. Maybe it does pay to update but hey, what is the fun in that, there aren't many surprises then are there. There are several family run hotels/hostels scattered over many of the villages. In others I had several families offer me a room. I couldn't accept at the time as I had a driver and wanted to get as much mileage as possible for my money. I ended up staying in a family run hotel/hostel just across the grass from the 'Prince' of all Earth Buildings. The girl who ran to my car was a 20 year old student and her family ran the hostel. A room for the night was 30 Yuan and it was clean, warm and comfortable. The restaurant was clean and the food was fantastic. After dinner you all sit drinking tea. We all chatted till the late hours. There was a small group of Chinese men eating dinner across from me and I was invited to sit with them. My student friend found out they were a group of teachers and headmasters from Yongding and when they found out I was a Foreign Teacher the beer began to flow. There is no internet in this hostel yet but it is only new so it will take time. The showers and toilets are 'very Chinese'. Upon waking I was offered a nice breakfast and tea. There was no coffee and I had run out of my 3 in 1's. Bugger! I began the day by visiting the 'Prince' and found it totally awesome. From there I spent most of the day walking around the village of Hongkeng. All Earth Buildings have their doors open to you and if you try to walk past someone will run after you. They are not after money but I guess they are wondering why you are skipping their building. Whilst walking around and after visiting the little school I found myself down beside the little river. Coffee! I actually smelt freshly brewed coffee. I couldn't believe it. I followed my nose and found myself walking through the archway of the Fuyu Building. The family who owns the Fuyu Building welcomed me with open arms and sat me down and we shared fresh `sweet potato´ chips. Then came another surprise, their son who runs the business now arrived. His English was excellent and soon we were chatting over coffee and `sweet potato´ chips like old friends. A group from France arrived and I found out that most of the tourists whom visit the Earth Buildings are actually French. He has no idea why or how they know about them but they just keep coming, sometimes by the bus load. Four o'clock found us all in their kitchen sharing lunch and rice wine. The rice wine was actually very sweet and rather nice. The Fuyu Building has now been upgraded to a very comfortable Hostel. The family bit the bullet and made it into a hostel just as comfortable as most of the good hostels I have stayed in. There is a fan in each room, the beds are very comfortable, every room has a window with a view, there is internet access, the menu is great and they even put in new toilets and showers INSIDE! It will cost you 40 Yuan for a room here. The Fuyu Building attracts most of the tourists who visit this and the surrounding villages because of its upgrade. I chose to stay at the other hostel. I loved the family feel about it and the fact that there were no other foreign guests. I'm happy with the shower/toilet to be outside. I don't know, I guess it felt more homely and not like a hostel. I felt a lot more comfortable within its walls. TRANSPORT TO AND FROM I'm unsure about 'going to' the villages from Xiamen, maybe if you know the village name etc you can do it but to return to Xiamen from Hongkeng Village you no longer have to go back to Yongding to catch the bus. There are several buses that leave each day beginning at 9:30am and I think the last one is at 3:10pm. The village bus station is opposite the stone entrance archway. Of course it doesn't look like a bus station as it's a simple store that sells bus tickets. I can't compare the buses from the village to those that leave from Yongding. Maybe the ones from Yongding travel the same highways that first took you to Yongding. The buses to Xiamen from the village take you through the mountains and their villages. You get to see more Earth Buildings and rural Chinese life. I believe this to be much better value for you money and visual experience. I had dinner with my happy family and we chatted over green tea till late once again. Beers N Noodles to you...shane

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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