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Hakka Group Houses

Updated Beijing Time

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Lingnan Hakka Group houses are a kind of large residence popular among the people called "Hakkas" in Lingnan (places south of the Five Ridges) including Fujian, Guangdong, southern jiangxi provinces and eastern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

In Chinese history, there were two large-scale movements of the Han nationality, from the central plain and then south China. one was in the Western Jin and Eastern Jin period, and the other was in the Northern Song and Southern Song era. -l-his was due to the chaos caused by war in the north, which forced distinguished and big families to undertake a southward shift by the whole clan. They continuously advanced southward, settling in Lingnan areas south of the Five Ridges, which were then still quite backward. The clan lived in compact communities which formed themselves into Hakkas.

 

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Hakkas abided by the cultural tradition before their southward movement. They particularly follow the Confucian rites, worship ancestors, treasure clan unity, value their homeland and were patriotic and paid attention to geomancy, to form a special Hakka Culture. Hakkas group houses are the most characteristic expressions of Hakka Culture. In most cases, they embody the original look of the Han Culture in the central plains during the Jin and Tang dynasties.

For example, Hakka group houses can be regarded as closely related to "Wu Bi" (castle wall) popular during the period from the Eastern Han to the Wei and Jin dynasties.

 

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The term "Wu" (fortified castle) originally referred to a small castle for stationing troops in a frontier fortress. Beginning from the middle part of the Eastern Han Dynasty, due to the chaos caused by frequent wars in the central plains, which continued for several hundred years, rich and powerful people vied to build fortified castles for self-defense. For a while, the construction of castles was all the vogue, and those constructed at this time were called Hakka Group Houses. They are in a variety of forms, but mainly fall into two kinds -wu feng lou (five phoenix tower) and tu lou (earthen tower), in addition to wei long Wu (a dragon-encircled house). The common characteristics are large size, compact encirclement and a centripetal and symmetrical layout, housing a dozen to several dozen families of the same clan.

 

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Wu Feng Lou consists of the lower hall, middle hall and main hall, called the three halls, arranged from the front to the back along the axial line of the whole residence. The lower hall is the vestibule, while the middle one is the big hall for clan get-together, and both are single storied. The main hall mostly consists of from three to five stories.

The center of the ground floor is the ancestral hall, erected with ancestral tablets. Its left, right and upper floors are living rooms for various families. The three halls are separated by a small yard, its left and right sides each having a wing hall which has passage leading to the horizontal house. The so-called horizontal house refers to the strip-shaped Long house parallel to the axial line. It also serves as living rooms for various families, the number of floors increasing steadily from the front to the back, until, finally, its height is close to that of the main hall. Centered on the main hall, the two horizontal houses look like the wings of a big bird surrounding and protecting the left and right sides. In a stretch manner, it looks like a phoenix spreading its wings, hence is called a "five-phoenix house".


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The area at the foot of the mountain, low in the front and high at the back, was selected for the Wu Feng Lou. The top of the house has a Chinese hip-and-gable roof. The slope of the house is rather leisurely, while the eave tip is flat and straight, and obviously retains many styles of the Han and Tang dynasties.

Tu Lou consists of square and round houses. Its characteristic is that the height of the first circle can reach as high as a five-storied house . Inside is a central courtyard. The ancestral hall is generally set up on the ground floor of the house on the axis facing the main door of the courtyard; or, a single-storied house is built within the courtyard to form the second ring or even the third, fourth and fifth ring. The ancestral hall is set up at the center of the central inner ring, which is a place for worshipping ancestors and holding clan grand ceremonies, The mud wall of the outer ring is exceptionally thick, often reaching as much as two meters or more. The first and second floors serve as the kitchen and granary. No window is opened to the Outside, or only a very small perforation is allowed. The third floor and above have living rooms with windows, which can also be used for shooting, giving it a strong defensive character The Square Hall type is represented by the Yijing Lou in Yongding of Fujian Province and the round hall can be represented by the Chengqi Lou in Yongding.

Source: www.chinaculture.org

Editor: Carrot Chen

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