Global Heritage Network Site
Masterpiece of Rammed Earth Architecture
Inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the tulou (“earthen building”) of
are a unique style of architecture designed for communal living. One of the more significant examples is that of Shengwu lou in Fujian , the initial focus of GHF preservation efforts in a project approved in 2009. GHF will be contributing to the creation of a site and regional Management Plan as well as working to create long-term sustainability through conservation intervention and community involvement in partnership with the Pinghe County People’s Government and the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage. Pinghe County
Fujian Tulou is a unique Chinese multi-storey rammed earth architectural form of the Hakka and Minnan people in
, built for communal living and defense. The literal translation of the term "tulou" is "earthen building," and there are about 3000 tulou located in southwestern Fujian Province, China province. These are mostly located in the mountainous regions of Fujian Longyan City and precincts and were mostly built between the 12th and the 20th centuries. The Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) has identified many of the Zhangzhou City tulous as a National Cultural Heritage Protection Unit. Out of these, six tulou clusters and four tulou structures, consisting of a total of 46 tulou structures, were inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is worth noting that given the large number of Fujian tulou, there are many tulou of great significance and in need of critical care that were excluded from the WHS nomination. One such tulou is Shengwu lou. Shengwu lou is located in Fujian Pinghe County, which also houses Zhuangshang Dalou, the largest known tulou, and Juening lou, the largest known circular Fujian Tulou. The tulou in Fujian Pinghe County, especially Shengwu lou, are regarded as of significant values, and the local government had great regrets when the tulou in failed to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination due to various political decisions. Pinghe County
Polychrome paintings, clay sculptures, and woodcarvings can be seen inside the building, door and window panels, and walls and roof tiles. The building contains more than 600 pieces of carved wood elements, each featuring a unique design, and more than 100 pieces of clay sculpture and wall paintings. Shengwu lou has been described as “the most exquisite tulou for its decorative arts” by Chinese tulou scholar Mr. Huang Hanmin.
The area of Shengwu lou faces unplanned development and pollution of the natural surroundings in the nearby Lu Stream. A planned national highway, whereby the Luxi township will become the main gateway to all the tulou in the region, threatens to bring a large volume of traffic and speculative development to this otherwise peaceful rural town.
The tulous have suffered from neglect and active defacement during the period of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, the disappearance of a traditional lifestyle and high rural unemployment rates have led to young people moving to nearby big cities like Xiamen in search of better opportunities. The historical and social factors, in combination with occasional natural disasters such as the annual typhoon, resulted in many of the structures’ integrity being compromised and their decorative details left in a state of great disrepair that requires immediate attention to ensure their long-term survival.
Previous neglect has also led to human-made problems such as vandalism, fire and stealing of the decorative panels. Regrettably, as residents began to move out of the tulou to more modern buildings or more developed regions, some of the decorative elements were being stolen. Recently, modern development has led to some inappropriate new constructions on the west and northeast of Shengwu lou. The immediate surroundings of the structure are messy due to unplanned construction of toilets, pigsties, and trash disposal.'