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Discover Guangzhou Self Guided Book is written by Janvi Tours, formerly Guangzhou Private Tour Guide Janvi or Guangzhou Tour Guide Janvi


Written by Janvi Chow
Published August 2018

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Home Informations Around Guangzhou Hakka Round House

Hakka Round House

Guangzhou hakka round house
Hakka Round House in Rural of Guangzhou (Weilongwu)

Hakka Round House A Hakka round house is a large multi-family communal living structure that is designed to be easily defensible. This building style is unique to the Hakka people found in southern China. According to incomplete statistics, the population of the Hakka in mainland China is about 40 million, and most of them live in the border area of Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangxi province. The Hakka were originally immigrants from northern China who settled in the southern provinces. From the 17th century onwards, population pressures drove them more and more into conflict with their neighbours (called punti in Cantonese). As rivalry for resources turned to armed warfare, the Hakka began building communal living structures designed to be easily defensible.

 

These houses, sometimes called Tulou(土楼), were often round in shape and internally divided into many compartments for food storage, living quarters, ancestral temple, armory, etc. The largest houses covered over 40,000 m² and it is not unusual to find surviving houses of over 10,000 m². This kind of Hakka round house could be found in Fujian Province.

Guangzhou hakka round house

The largest communities of Hakkas worldwide, live mostly in eastern Guangdong, in particular the so-called Xing-Mei (Xingning-Meixian) Area, whereas most the oversea descended Hakkas came from Huizhou. Unlike their kin in Fujian, the Hakkas in the Xingning(兴宁,Hin Nin) and Meixian(梅县,Moi Yen) area developed a non-fortress like unique architectural styles, most notably the Weilongwu (Chinese: 围龙屋) and Sijiaolou (Chinese: 四角楼).

spatial structure Weilongwu in Guangzhou

Spatial structure of Hakka Round House (Weilongwu)

From the 17th century, Some Hakka people moved from Meizhou to Zengceng of Guangzhou, meanwhile, they brought the Weilongwu Architecture into here. Hakka Walled villages are typically designed for defensive purposes and consist of one entrance and no windows at the ground level. Weilongwu is one of the typical Hakka vernacular architectures, which is sometimes called one of “Chinese five traditional architectures” by the architect in China. So-called “typical” Weilongwu is an elliptic apartment house, and its spatial structure can be divided into three parts: housing space in the central part, big pound in the foreground, and huatai(化胎)and closed dragon houses. A square housing in the central part has some different kinds of spaces. It includes three kinds of public space called inner hall(上廳), central hall(中廳), outer hall(下廳)and two kinds of private space lived by lineage members called central houses(中堂間)and side houses(橫屋間)in both sides of the public space. Among them, the inner hall is considered as the most important space by lineage members, so they generally put their ancestral plates, the Earth God(土地伯公)and the Godless of Mercy(觀音).

Among the Chinese traditional architecture, the most characteristic parts of Weilongwu maybe are Huatai and closed dragon houses in the background. Huatai is the semicircular place that gradually rises and it is often called ‘dragon’ by indigenous people. Besides, so many egg stones are spread on the Huatai, and a god called the Five Dragon God(五方五土龍神)is put in the front side of it. On the other hand, closed dragon houses close the semi-circle Huatai. The lineage member can live in closed dragon houses, but can’t live in its middle house called dragon hall(龍廳). Because dragon hall is a sacred space, lineage members generally put ritual items in this room.

The Hakka are the orthodoxy Han nationality from the Central Plain. We can hear the local Hakka people explaining their architecture with the viewpoint of Central plain when we visit Hakka districts. First, The old community consists of some local lineages and immigrants, but only a young lineage has Weilongwu among them. The most members of the young lineage, however, are not living in it, and are living in modern houses built nearby Weilongwu or are going to the outside city to find work. Therefore, most of the young members of young lineage don’t understand the cultural meaning of Weilongwu, and only some elder man over 60 years can explain their environmental knowledge as follow: The first is related to flow of Qi (氣; a kind of energy of nature). According to their explanation, mountains behind Weilongwu look like the shape of animals, and qi is originated from these mountains and goes straight to dragon hall → Huatai → the Five Dragon God → inner hall (ancestral hall) → heaven well → ponds, that is to say, the centerline of Weilongwu. This is why they lay meandering water pipes on purpose from heaven well to the pound to lose less their qi, that is to say, money (wealth). The second is about Huatai and the Five Dragon God. Huatai is a concentrative place of qi. So if sowing the plants there, they will grow up very fast. On the other hand, the Five Dragon God represents the thought of Five Elements, and its five different figures arranged from left to right respectively represent wood → fire → earth → metal → water.