Deep in the Fuijan countryside, among the lush green hills and red earth of Yongding County, stand the incredible earthen fortresses of the Hakka people. Originating from the far northwestern reaches of China, the Hakka gradually migrated southwards, finally settling in the more temperate southern provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi.
Known as tulou, these buildings were built to protect against bandits and dangerous animals and some are large enough to house entire villages. The hard-packed earthen walls are surprisingly sturdy and over 30,000 remain, scattered around the countryside, with the highest concentration in Yongding County. Though many are open to tourists today (gaining UNESCO status in 2008), they also continue to function as homes for the ethnic Hakka who live and farm the area.
Tianluokeng, a four hour drive from Xiamen, is one of the most stunning to see. A cluster of five tulou nestled in the green valley, the view from above is spectacular.