Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Round Houses Hide Villages; Nuclear Weaponry or Cultural Icon?

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Round Houses Hide Villages; Nuclear Weaponry or Cultural Icon?

Article excerpt

Byline: WORDS: David Sparkes

IF YOU have never heard of the Fujian tulou in China, don't feel dumb Co almost nobody has.

Former United States President Ronald Reagan certainly heard about them.

The CIA brought them to his attention in the early 1980s when Cold War paranoia was still a powerful force in the US.

Some clever analysts at the CIA were looking through satellite images of the Chinese countryside, as you do.

They stumbled upon something that evoked their worst fears: nuclear missile launch sites.

Perfectly circular structures, clearly man-made, 50 metres in diameter and nestled secretively in the countryside.

Clearly, the Chinese were armed for nuclear war and the Hollywood president was briefed.

We can only imagine the embarrassment the CIA must have felt when they did a little research and realised the tulou in Fujian Province were earthen buildings, built in giant circles by farming peasants to house entire villages.

It seems bizarre that the tulou of Fujian Province aren't more famous. When we think of iconic Chinese structures from days gone by, the Great Wall of China comes to mind, not the circular fortresses of Fujian.

C[pounds sterling]TulouC[yen] literally means C[pounds sterling]earthen buildingC[yen] in Mandarin.

They are a striking sight and unlike anything built anywhere else.

Built between three and five storeys high and up to 70m in diameter, their pale, earthen colour and slightly cracked veneer give a timeless and organic look.

Tulou in Fujian were built by the Hakka ethnic group from the 12th century until the 1960s.

After migrating from northern China, the Hakka settled in a number of areas but Yongding county in south-west Fujian is where they really left their mark.

They might look fantastic but the tulou were built out of necessity. …

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