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Visiting the Hakka Earthen buildings of Yong Ding

CHINA | Tuesday, 21 October 2008 | Views [2349] | Comments [2]

On Saturday morning we dragged our selves out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6:30 in order to drive to Yong Ding and visit the beautiful Hakka Earthen buildings.

First stop was the city of Longyan so we could pick up Jenny the owner of the Longyan language center, and Ben, Amber and Will, the American teachers. Sadly, while we were on our way to Longyan, we got a call from Jenny saying that none of them could make the trip and it would just be us and a guide called Clarke that Jenny had organised for us especially. I was looking forward to seeing the Americans again so I was quite disappointed, but we pressed on regardless. 

We drove for about two hours through tiny villages and rice fields until we reached the mountainous county of Yong Ding. The Earthen buildings are scattered at the foothills of the surrounding mountains and on the banks of the aptly named Yong Ding river. The buildings themselves date back to the early-mid Ming Dynasty (fifteenth century) and are round or quadrangle shaped structures made from mud bricks and wood. They were built according to a Chinese feng shui building method referred to as 'ba gua', which is round on the outside and octagonal on the inside. This adds to the durability and functionality of the structure: they are well lit, well ventilated, windproof, quake proof, warm in winter and cool in summer. The walls are one meter thick making them impervious not only to bad weather but also to invasions. At the time they were build, if there was the threat of marauders in the area, the villages would simply lock the one meter thick wood and metal doors and were completely protected. They could also live within the structures quite happily for months because of huge stockpiles of wood, food and water within. It's truly breathtaking to think of the history behind the structures and the people that build them. They are very ingeniously built and majestic structures. 

Today, the village of Hakka earth buildings in Yong Ding is not only a tourist attraction, but also a working village with restaurants, shops, a small school and many small mud brick houses.

As we walked though the buildings I was reminded of many other tourist attractions I have visited because of the large number of people there, taking photos and being led by their tour guides. We found a restaurant and decided to eat lunch before looking properly around the village. June asked the proprietors for the menu and we picked some local food to try including young bamboo shoots and sweet potato leaves. The meal was delicious and with it we drank local rice wine. I wasn't too keen on this rice wine I've got to say, it was much to sweet for my liking. Rice wine is suppose to be very good for you, although I have no idea how much alcohol is in it. Not much i would think.

Walking through the village we saw many fruits and grains set out on bamboo mats to dry in the sun. There were children playing and people trying to sell the local goods to the hordes of visitors. Clarke led us through the stalls and over a beautiful stream to the 'look out'. Here we could see out across the village of earth buildings. It was so serene there, especially since we were away from all of the other tourists. 

Before we left we found a rice wine distillery and decided to buy some. We were shown around the building and saw the process of braising and marinating the rice before it's bottled in hand made clay pots and covered with a dry banana leave to be sold. I bought one pot (about 1.5 liters) for the equivalent of 11.5 AUD (55 Yuan). They gave us some of the wine to try and it was MUCH nicer than the one we bought in the resturant.

I really enjoyed the experience of visiting the Hakka earth buildings despite the large number of tourists that were also there. Even so, I only saw two westerners there and our tour guide, Clarke, told me more than 99% of the visitors there are from other parts of China. Even though I AM a tourist, it's nice to feel as if you're experiencing something that most other tourists miss out on. That's why I'm very lucky to be able to experience this particular part of Fujian (Zhangzhou, Yong Ding, Longyan, Pinghe) as it's basically the 'real' China and few visitors to China will travel here.

The Chinese countryside is amazingly beautiful and it's people are more than friendly. One thing I will say however, is the roads and the traffic on them are SCARY. After we had left Yong Ding and were driving back to Longyan, many people were mindlessly driving on the wrong side of the road while going around steep corners! It's beyond belief why they don't understand the dangers of doing so.

Anyway, we arrived safely (after a terrible few hours of changing plans and missing a turn off for the freeway) and booked into the same hotel we stayed in the last time we were in Longyan. I like this hotel as it's cheap, clean and modern. They show English movies too, so I settled down for an evening of green tea drinking and watching movies including Psycho (the stupid re-make, sadly), Next Stop Wonderland (a great American independent film) and David Attenborough's The Private Life of Plants. It was great to have some alone time; something that is rare in China.



Thanks very much for another well-written report!

  Antique Rose Oct 23, 2008 5:14 AM


Please find my recent e-mail!

Much love...

  Antique Rose Oct 28, 2008 7:23 PM

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