Yongding is a city in YongdingCounty; whereas Hukeng is a little town in the County. Many people know Yongding because it has been made famous due to its rammed earth buildings or round houses called Tulou.
Even though Yongding has got the name for being the place to see Tolou in the west of Fujian, the actual Tulou groups are not centred around Yongding, it is rather concentrated around Hukeng.
A river runs through Hukeng Town
Hukeng (湖坑) is a small town with only two or three busy main streets with commercial activities, the town has got only two decent hotels which have the modern facilities, that is air-con, hot shower and heater in winter. Many travelers, truck drivers, bus drivers usually use Hukeng to refresh and restock before journeying to Yongding, Longyan or other places. Hukeng is a convenient stopover.
Hukeng is convenient to get to from either Xiamen or Longyan. If you are doing a one day tour to Nanjing, travelling from Xiamen using the newly constructed provincial road is the quickest. It takes about two hours and 30 minutes by car. But, if you wish to stay a night in Tulou areas, Hukeng is the ideal place to spend the night. Hukeng is about 30 minutes drive from Nanjing’s Tienluokeng. You need not have to go to Yongding city as it is much further away.
If you are traveling by yourself using public buses, some of these long distant public buses stop at Hukeng before proceeding to Yongding. Hukeng to Yongding takes another hour by road.
If you are coming from Longyan, you need not have to go to YongdingCity also. Take a bus direct from Longyan city to Hukeng, known by local to be the centre point for visiting the earth buildings in west of Fujian.
From Hukeng, you can travel to Chuxi Tulou groups or even Hulei. Hukeng is strategic to visiting all these Tulou groups
Qiaolian Hotel is one of the more decent hotel in Hukeng
Hukeng is small and hence the hotels are pretty basic. Some of these economy hotels are very clean and they provide fairly comfortable accommodation. Qiaolian Hotel and Xinhe Hotel are the two which have good rooms and good location. For around 120-150rmb per room per night, you are provided with air-con or heater, hot shower, western toilet, clean towels, clean sheets and room.
If you are rough and tumbled or for go comfort in the name of ‘life experices’, It is also possible to stay in an earth building. Fuyu Lou (福裕楼) is one of them. It is reasonably clean and has good food. However, the bath room and toilet is on the ground floor whilst the bedroom is on 2nd floor (British). There is no air-con or heater. In winter, it is freezing. However, the cost is only around 60-100 rmb per night per person. Tourists can contact Mr Su who can also act as a guide, but please note he speaks no English.
Tulou on the fringe of Hukeng Town are usually occupied and resided by families
In Hukeng town itself, you can walk to many of the tulou which are usually occupied and resided by families. There are many motorcycle-taxi which you can hire for half a day at the costs of around 20-80rmb, depending on how you bargain. The motorcycle drivers are usually friendly and speak no English. Navigating these drivers is a problem as they may be paid commission by certain commercial operators who make them inclined to take you there to claim his take.
From Hukeng, you can visit many villages or tulou groups which are within 15 minutes or half hour drive by car. Hongkeng village is by far the nearest. It is within walking distance, if you know the direction, but many of these tulou is scattered around the village. Walking from one tulou to the next take between 30 minutes or so by foot, which is not exactly convenient.
An arch banners in Hukeng town centre, showing the road to Hongkeng Village.
Hongkeng village (洪坑村) is the main centre for tourist activity with many of its showpieces, one of them being the Zhencheng Lou (振成楼). Though some of the Tulou are restored for tourists in which these Tulou are brought back to former glory, many are still resided by villagers and in their day to day living states. You can spend some time wandering around the village. Most of the buildings are still lived in. They aren't just historical relics. They are excellent examples of ecologically sustainable building design.
Hongkeng is a long village lying along both banks of a river that winds between fertile, sunny mountain slopes with terraced rice fields. In places where it is impractical to create terraces are found camphor and pine trees, tea, hemp, banana, bamboo and tobacco. Hongkeng is administratively a part of Hukeng Commune, which lies in the southwestern corner of Yongding County in the province of Fujian.
Scenery outside Hukeng town and around Hongkeng village
Until the 1960's Hongkeng village and the surrounding villages were connected to the outside world by narrow, almost impassable roads. Since then, small gravel roads, precisely wide enough for two cars to pass have been built, mostly following the river. Landslides caused by floods are common, with houses and roads disappearing into the river.
All of the 2500 inhabitants of Hongkeng bear the surname Su and almost all are Hakka.
In many villages, including Hongkeng, communal activities take place in the shade of an especially large tree. Here is also found the local altar of the soil, a small stone typically about one metre high.
For many years it was believed that the Hakka were the first to build tulou, as a direct consequence of their traditions and way of life. But there is now evidence of the existence of the tulou from before the arrival of the Hakka, most are today inhabited by other, South Chinese, ethnic groups.
The She people (a subgroup of the Yao people) lived here in the hills before the Hakka and inspired them in such matters as gender roles, division of labour, and even their architecture.
On the other hand, the counties of Yongding and Nanjing are predominantly inhabited by the Hakka and there is little doubt that they have to this day exerted a great influence on the buildings appearance.
Some Tulou have been restored and are showpieces rather than dwellings, Zhenfu Lou (振福楼) in Hongkeng Village is one of them
About five kilometres from Hongkeng village is Chengqi Lou (承启楼) which is the largest of the earth buildings. It is almost three hundred years old and is made up of three concentric circular buildings.
There is a 40 rmb entrance fee for the Hongkeng village although the ticket is valid for several days. There is also a 40 rmb entrance fee for the Chengqi Lou. Some earth buildings will ask for a donation of five rmb.
How to get there
From Xiamen, getting to Tulou in Nanjing and Yongding County is made easy with the newly constructed provincial highway. You can take a bus, hire a van with a driver or hire a car and self drive.
If you are not bothered by the inconveniences and frustration of finding your own way, taking a bus is the ‘cheapest’ and most adventurous experience, especially in less foreign tourist oriented parts of China where directions and signs are minimal or non-existing. There are regular long distant buses which connect directly to Hukeng leaving at hourly interval from the Long-distant Bus Station in Hubinnan Lu. The whole bus journey from Xiamen to Hukeng takes about 3 to 3.5 hours.
If you are in a group of 2 to 5 and have a valid Chinese driver license (International license is invalid in China), you can rent a car and self drive. You can find travel information from Apple Travel, including hiring a car.
If you want to travel in comfort, sit back, relax and enjoy, Apple Travel in Xiamen has all the flexible travel supports for you. Apple Travel can arrange transport and guides. Apple Travel has a few well equipped vans and Tulou-experienced drivers to provide you with comfortable and hassle free trips. For those who have no basic knowledge of Tulou and would like to learn more about historical value of these various Tulou, an English tour guide can be provided at extra cost. The ideal tour group is between 4 persons to 6 persons.
Apple Travel and Wyndham Hotel Xiamen are working hand in hand to make your Fujian tulou tours as comfortable as they can be when you are either in transit or opt for a few days stay in Xiamen. For all international and China domestic tourists, Xiamen is a must stop hub for your tulou trips, in which you make your way to the various tour destinations. The Wyndham Hotel Xiamen together with Apple Travel present the best combination to make your tulou trips as comfortable and hassle free as possible. Wyndham locates in the centre of Xiamen CBD. The Hotel offers 588 luxurious rooms and suites, most of which are embraced by spectacular sea views of popular Gulangyu Island.