承启楼 (cheng qi lou)

f1The Hakka’s most famous earthern buildings will be the 承启楼 (cheng qi lou). situated in northern  Fujian. In the book  “中国古代建筑史”(China’s history of  ancient buildings), it has been used to symbolize the Hakka earthen  buildings. The building follows the inner connected corridor model. The building outer diameter is at 62.6 metres, it is consist of 4 concentric circular houses. At the central part of the building is made up of an ancestral hall ,a cloister and a semi circular courtyard ( 天井). Together they formed a single storey round house. Outside this house is 3 encompassing rings of houses.  The first ring is divided into 20 compartments/rooms , the center with  34 and the outer with 72. This outer ring building is 4 storeys tall, has 4 stairways,1 huge door and 2 side doors. The thickness of the wall at the lower level is at 1.9 metres. The roofs of these ringed houses are massive so that they could protect the building’s mud walls from rain. The bottom level of the outer ring houses are used for the kitchen, 2nd level as storeroom, granary and the 3 rd and 4th level as the living quarters. The whole builiding has 370 such living quarters. The dwellers boasted, said if one were to stay for a day in each rooms, one would take more than a year and the corridor encompassing the quarters is nearly 1 km long, there one could see how gigantic this building is.

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承启楼 (cheng qi lou) currently has resides 300 people  of 57 families.  It is said that it was built by the 15th generation Hakka living there, now the generation is around 30. It is built at 1709 and used 3 years to complete. Legends say that this building depended hugely on the good weather to complete, it was also called the “天助楼” (heaven aided building). During the peak of its occupancy, it has 600 dwellers of 80 families. It is say if a new bride enters the building, she would need 2 years to know all the people inside , provided if she knew one person a day.

Translated from 客家土楼民居

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