Beijing Layover Tour
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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way!

After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

Karenkatz,
Westborough, Massachusetts
Reviews onTour-Beijing.Com
Hidden mountain treasure
 
When most of us think of travel in Fujian Province, the only two places that come to mind are Xiamen and Gulangyu Island, invoking images of beautiful seascapes, sandy beaches, and European-style buildings. However, in fact, there are many more interesting sites lying within this province that is 90 percent mountains.

As someone who has lived for a long time in the metropolis of Beijing, I felt like I was in another world in Fujian Province, with its different buildings, people and culture. But as I was introduced to the area by the local people, I came to appreciate their deep relationship with traditional culture.

If you have plans to travel to Yongding, a county in southwestern Fujian Province, perhaps the biggest must-see attraction is tulou. Although these large homes have existed for hundreds and thousands of years and are now identified as UNESCO World Heritage sites, they became known to the outside world only recently. It is reported that tulou were first noticed in photos taken by US satellites, and the images were sent to US intelligence departments, as the mushroom-like buildings look very much like nuclear installations.

In December 1985, a US intelligence agent went into the local villages, pretending to be a journalist. But to his surprise, the constructions that had been regarded as nuclear bases were nothing more than traditional houses.

Before I visited my first tulou, the dull-sounding name, meaning "earth building," did not give me high expectations for the structures. Upon arriving at a giant four-story cylindrical clay building, named Chengqi Lou (Chengqi Building), I found the structure to be a bit of a disappointment. The plain, earth-colored walls were not very striking, and the overall shape resembled that of a granary. I wondered how such a simple and crude building could have been made a World Heritage site.

But as I walked inside, I found myself stunned.

The interior of the tulou is far more impressive than the exterior. Gazing up at the inner facade of the high surrounding wall, I saw dozens of small rooms on each of four floors, all facing the center and constructed according to a uniform and neat design.

Perhaps the most surprising part of this tulou is that two more concentric buildings are to be found inside, following the same architectural layout as the larger structure and decreasing in size toward the center.

At the heart of all the circles, there is a hall which houses a statute of guanyin (a Bodhisattva). As the local tour guide told us, all the residents of Chengqi Lou belong to the same family, surnamed Jiang. The central hall is where the whole family discusses important issues and holds ceremonies like weddings and ancestral worship.

The diameter of Chenqi Lou is nearly 80 meters, occupying almost 6,000 square meters. It has 400 rooms altogether, housing over 400 people. In its heyday, the number of inhabitants reached 800.

There are at the moment 23,000 tulou in Yongding county, and they vary in shape. Most are round or square, while some are arch-style, oval, or look like the Chinese character "."

A number of tulou are known for their own unique characteristics. For example, Fuxin Lou, built in 769, is the oldest, and Zhencheng Lou, regarded as the "Prince of Tulou," is the most splendid one, while Chengqi Lou, the "King of Tulou," is celebrated for its massive layout and construction.

However, they share the same basic internal construction style. The central hall is a shrine for guanyin, the outer building is always higher than the others, windows are no lower than the third story, and one or two wells can be found inside. Each tulou was built to house a large family.



Global Times | April 09, 2012
 


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